A dazzling novel of two sisters and their emotional journey through love, loyalty, and heartbreak
Two sisters—Miranda, the older, responsible one, always her younger sister’s protector; Lucia, the headstrong, unpredictable one, whose impulses are huge and, often, life changing. When their mother dies and Lucia starts hearing voices, it is Miranda who must find a way to reach her sister. But Lucia impetuously plows ahead, marrying a bighearted, older man only to leave him, suddenly, to have a baby with a young Latino immigrant. She moves her new family from the States to Ecuador and back again, but the bitter constant is that she is, in fact, mentally ill. Lucia lives life on a grand scale, until, inevitably, she crashes to earth.
Miranda leaves her own self-contained life in Switzerland to rescue her sister again—but only Lucia can decide whether she wants to be saved. The bonds of sisterly devotion stretch across oceans—but what does it take to break them?
Told in alternating points of view, Everything Here Is Beautiful is, at its heart, the story of a young woman’s quest to find fulfillment and a life unconstrained by her illness. But it’s also an unforgettable, gut-wrenching story of the sacrifices we make to truly love someone—and when loyalty to one’s self must prevail over all.
As I was reading through reviews upon finishing the book, I caught Celeste Ng’s words, that she called it an ‘unflinching portrayal,’ and honestly there is no better descriptor. Everything Here is Beautiful is painfully evocative and brutally honest in not just the uphill battle with mental illness to either yourself or a very closed loved one, but the true definition of familial love. Love isn’t just easy or apologetic or simple; love is very complicated, frustrating, and impossible. Miranda and Lucia’s story tested the true bonds of that love, how far one would go to save her sister and how far she could go without losing herself.
There were times, while reading this novel, that it honestly ripped me apart. It wasn’t an easy story to read; not because it wasn’t well written, but because of how true it rang on both sides of the card. Lucia’s battle with a deteriorating mental illness was like watching a slow, brutal train crash, where I wanted to scream and beg and plead for mercy. But that crash didn’t just involve her, instead including everyone surrounding her–her daughter, her ex, her sister Miranda–and this perpetuating circle of ups and downs. And I think most of us can find ourselves in either sister, whether we’re fighting to save a family member from themselves or that we’re within that fight trying to find those moments of peace in our minds. Lee made both sides incredibly accessible, easing readers into their dilemmas to connect us on a more personal level, and in turn making it more gut-wrenching with each step forward.
I don’t think it’s possible to get through this story without crying and feeling torn or conflicted. Even still, I can feel that soul deep ache of how beautifully vivid and darkly sweet it was resounding in my heart. Lee wrote a complicated tale that read effortlessly on the page and came alive in the mind. And truly there aren’t words to describe how easily Everything Here is Beautiful will capture your attention and bring your heart into an arduous but fulfilling journey between two wonderful sisters.
♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦
Mira T. Lee’s debut novel, Everything Here is Beautiful, was selected by the American Booksellers Association as one of Winter/Spring 2018’s Top 10 Debut titles. Her short fiction has appeared in journals such as the Southern Review, the Gettysburg Review, the Missouri Review, Triquarterly, Harvard Review, and American Short Fiction, and has twice received special mention for the Pushcart Prize. She was awarded the Peden Prize for Best Short Story byThe Missouri Review (2010), and an Artist’s Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (2012). In her previous lives, Mira has also been known as a graphic designer, a pop-country drummer, a salsa dancing fanatic, and a biology grad school dropout. Mira is an alum of Stanford University, and currently lives in Cambridge, MA.