Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee
I finished my first book of 2019. I’m going to aim to finish two books a month.
This novel follows two first generation, Chinese-American sisters: Miranda and Lucia Bok. When we first meet them as young adults and their mother is dying of lung cancer. The older sister, Miranda handles all the matters involving the mother’s estate and health. It’s clear that she is the stable foundation holding the small, quiet family together.
What’s captivating about this tale, that spans twenty years, is Miranda and Lucia are two sisters I have definitely passed while galavanting around New York. They are two people I could see sitting in silence across from me in a subway car, both with tear-streaked cheeks, and know they are sisters who have just had the same fight for the thousandth time.
Everything Here Is Beautiful follows all the characters involved with Lucia’s mental illness, which is a cross diagnosis between schizophrenic disorder and bipolar disorder. Lucia is a sporadic, impulsive “journalist” of savant-like intelligence whose interests in people and activities fluctuate between electric bass, Vietnam, one-armed Israelis, and Ecuadorean illegal immigrants.
Although the story is told from the viewpoints of all the main characters, what Lee has ultimately written about is the brunt of the oldest sister, Miranda. Her anxiety and well-being rests in whether Lucia takes her medicine or not. Miranda has been Lucia’s second mother since their own mother would get flustered in Tennessee with Lucia, when they first immigrated to America. Eventually, Miranda is able to convince herself that Lucia is Lucia’s responsibility and chases her own happiness by moving to Switzerland with her husband. But Miranda’s own joy walks a tightrope as Lucia’s unpredictability keeps her up at night. Miranda’s life is like a scavenger hunt of meaning as the world passes around her and her friends have babies until one day, a catastrophic but liberating event happens…and she’s free.
Lee has captured all the difficulty and sacrifice that comes with simply trying to, “live your life.”