EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL IN MIRA T. LEE’S DEBUT NOVEL
Everything Here Is Beautiful tackles mental illness, sisterhood and the true meaning of family in the most beautiful way
This was one of those books that gave me a good feeling immediately after reading the blurb. Or maybe it was that gorgeous cover?! You know how I love my book covers. I’d mentioned Everything Here Is Beautiful in my list of books to read in 2018 and I’m so glad I followed through.
Miranda and Lucia are Chinese-American sisters, different as day and night. The older sister, Miranda is responsible while Lucia is free-spirited and often impulsive. When Lucia begins hearing voices, it is Miranda who repeatedly swoops in to save the day. Miranda is her sisters number one protector and advocate, sometimes, even to the point of self-neglect.The story is told from multiple perspectives and follows the lives of both girls as they repeatedly diverge and intersect.
“SCHIZOPHRENIA DOES NOT DEFINE WHO I AM”
Everything Here Is Beautiful is mostly about Lucia Bok. As someone who is interested in psychiatry and mental illness, this book was a joy to devour. My favorite thing about Lucia’s character is the fact that Lee has written a character is not just mentally ill. Thus, Lucia is well rounded, human, wild at heart and occasionally delusional. It is not difficult to imagine how this illness makes her feel and why she struggles with her relationship with Miranda.
When she is well, Lucia Bok speaks five languages, plays the violin and is a people magnet because of her warm and genuine spirit. However, when she is ill, she is aggressive, confrontational and a danger to herself and loved ones. Such is the peril that mental illness can be and there are few books that explore this with much dignity.
Miranda Bok is fierce in her role as her sister’s keeper as she’s been since childhood. Now, both orphans, the only real family both girls have is each other. Although Miranda moves to Switzerland with her husband and hates flying, all it takes is a phone call to bring her to Lucia’s side. Her manner is first, efficient and this alters her relationship with Lucia. She focuses on ensuring that Lucia receives and is compliant with her medication. As a result, in Lucia’s eyes, Miranda becomes more “enforcer” than “sister”.
Still, Miranda’s relentless efforts are praiseworthy. The weight of responsibility she is laden with is felt throughout the story. Nonetheless, she perseveres. Throughout the book, it is hard not to wait for the moment when the burden of this sisterhood defeats Miranda.
Who’s really family?
In the course of the story, Lucia and Miranda meet people who become family. From Miranda’s childhood friend, Tess to Lucia’s Yonah and then Manuel and his family, Lee dissects the real meaning of the term. While we are all individuals in the world, we all need our own people. For those who deal with mental illness, this is especially so. Although Lucia finds her own support system, it is not always easy for her to accept assistance.
Throughout the book, family is a recurring theme. They love and support, yet, family can also be a burden. Loved ones may not always understand everything we suffer and may even disagree with us on important issues. Still, we need our people.
What I loved
Mira T Lee writes exquisitely about mental illness, but also in general. Although writing from multiple POVs is not exactly a rarity, it is not often that it is done this convincingly. Each character is so distinct in voice and personality and that shines through in their section. Lee also manages to give the reader a 360 degree perspective on the entire story which is an enviable feat. Most importantly, this story feels honest. Mental illness is hardly ever well defined; most patients have more than one illness at the same time. For many others, doctors aren’t completely sure what they have and Lucia’s story is no exception as she bounces between diagnoses.Mira T Lee writes exquisitely about mental illness, but also in general. Although writing from multiple POVs is not exactly a rarity, it is not often that it is done this convincingly. Click To Tweet
Everything Here Is Beautiful also spans three continents (four, technically, if you count Asia) and feels like a journey of its own. Lee’s debut novel shows strong family ties can be, how flawed love can be and how beauty can always be found. Everything Here Is Beautiful is striking, affirming and heart-wrenching. Highly recommended reading! Lucia’s story teaches us something that is encapsulated in Lee’s introduction:
“Let us be humbled in the knowledge that one may never fully understand the interior lives of others–but let us continue to care”
-Mira T. LeeLee's debut novel shows strong family ties can be, how flawed love can be and how beauty can always be found. Everything Here Is Beautiful is striking, affirming and heart-wrenching. Click To Tweet
My Rating: 5/5