Everything Here Is Beautiful

Everything Here Is Beautiful

Two sisters: Miranda, the older, responsible one, always her younger sister's protector; Lucia, the vibrant, headstrong, unconventional one, whose impulses are huge and, often, life changing. When their mother dies and Lucia starts to hear voices, it's Miranda who must fight for the help her sister needs — even as Lucia refuses to be defined by any doctor's diagnosis. Dete...

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Title:Everything Here Is Beautiful
Author:Mira T. Lee
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Everything Here Is Beautiful Reviews

  • Diane S ☔

    4.5 Mental illness and the huge toll it takes on family, friends and the sufferers themselves. We meet two sisters, Jie, the responsible one, the protector and Lucia, creative, whimsical, impetuous. Two very different women, trying to have stable lives, but find many impediments in their paths. Stable lives built on an unstable foundation. We hear many different viewpoints, from different people, see and feel many different sides as those close try to help Lucia, keep her stable, taking her meds

    4.5 Mental illness and the huge toll it takes on family, friends and the sufferers themselves. We meet two sisters, Jie, the responsible one, the protector and Lucia, creative, whimsical, impetuous. Two very different women, trying to have stable lives, but find many impediments in their paths. Stable lives built on an unstable foundation. We hear many different viewpoints, from different people, see and feel many different sides as those close try to help Lucia, keep her stable, taking her meds.How this drains them, often not knowing what to do, nor how to help or even cope.

    It is Lucia's story, her thoughts that bring the reader into her very being, her inner core. She tries so hard, wants only good things for those she loves, which eventually includes a young daughter. She is at times so much fun, imaginative, a hard worker, but sometimes she doesnt know what is real, what is not. She is in and out of different facilities, diagnosed with different mentasl illnesses, given medications, some with horrible sdide effects. We see the toll this takes on all.

    It is also as novel about the alienation, the fear people feel when they don't know how to fix things. The strain and stress of always watching, waiting. The different health care facilities in other countries, or lack thereof. This is a very emotional read, and the ending is as well. I became so invested in these characters, their lives, felt their struggle, their desperation at times. This is a very character driven read, and one in which I became emotionally involved. Beautifully written and extremely well done.

    ARC from Edelweiss.

  • Bkwmlee

    Two weeks into the new year, I’ve come across my first 5 star read -- Mira T. Lee’s incredible debut novel

    . At its core, this beautifully written story is about two sisters who, after losing their father at a young age, are brought to the U.S. by their widowed mother, a strong woman determined to give her children the best life possible. As the older sister, Miranda is the responsible one, the one who always took care of things, fixed things whenever they went wron

    Two weeks into the new year, I’ve come across my first 5 star read -- Mira T. Lee’s incredible debut novel

    . At its core, this beautifully written story is about two sisters who, after losing their father at a young age, are brought to the U.S. by their widowed mother, a strong woman determined to give her children the best life possible. As the older sister, Miranda is the responsible one, the one who always took care of things, fixed things whenever they went wrong, and constantly played the role of protector for her vibrant yet extremely headstrong younger sister Lucia. After their mother dies, the bond between these 2 sisters grows even stronger as they rely on and support one another through life’s good moments as well as the bad. When Lucia is diagnosed with a debilitating mental illness, Miranda dedicates herself to helping her sister live a normal life, fighting to get her the treatment she desperately needs, the constant driving force who steps in time and time again, regardless of distance, to put her sister back on the right track. Over the years though, their relationship becomes strained as Lucia refuses to let her illness define her and instead chooses to live her life as she pleases, letting her impulses guide her. As Miranda and Lucia embark on their separate life journeys, their sisterly bond, once so strong, is repeatedly put to the test, with each incident, each confrontation, escalating in intensity, emotion, heartache – as things reach breaking point, they are forced to reconsider how much they are willing to sacrifice for the ones they love versus learning to finally let go and live their own lives.

    There were so many things I loved about this book! It wasn’t an easy read by any means, as the story itself was heart-wrenching, with the chronicling of multiple lives impacted by the complexities of mental illness. I don’t have much experience dealing with mental illness so I can’t speak to how realistically it was portrayed in this story, but it absolutely felt so real to me and on an emotional level, the story moved me deeply. I felt for all of the characters, really connected with them and grew to love them despite their many flaws and in the end, I didn’t want to let them go. With each character, I found myself on an emotional roller coaster ride –rejoicing with them during the small successes, feeling saddened and heartbroken when things took a turn for the worse, feeling frustrated and angered when their actions were self-destructive or hurtful to others, yet couldn't help smiling during the many tender moments. There was also the humor, infused so wonderfully and perfectly throughout the story, in such a way as to make some of the sadness more bearable, yet without making light of the seriousness of mental illness and its impact on each of the characters. I especially loved all the “aiya” moments and yes, my favorite character was Yonah, who made me laugh so wholeheartedly one minute yet cry buckets and buckets of tears the next minute – my favorite chapters were those narrated by him and when I had gotten to the end of that section, I felt grateful to the author for giving such a wonderfully endearing character the chance to tell his story in his own voice. I felt that the emotion throughout the book was very raw and so very real, which in large part contributed to what made this story so powerful yet also beautiful at the same time.

    In terms of the narration, this one alternated between first person and third person, with each chapter told from the perspective of one of the many characters who were part of Lucia’s life or were affected in some way by her actions, her illness. I’ve seen other authors use a similar format (alternating between first and third person), yet this one stood out in the way that it was able to seamlessly transition between perspectives, almost to perfection, resulting in a narrative that was richer and fuller but didn’t detract at all from the power of the story and the many emotions it elicited. I loved how the author Mira T. Lee was able to give each of the characters their own voice and do it so well! Once again, I am blown away by the fact that this is a debut novel, one written with such skill that it really speaks to the talent of the author.

    This beautiful story is one that will stay with me for a long time, its characters now among my favorites. Needless to say, this one comes highly recommended and absolutely should not be missed! Everything here is indeed beautiful!

  • Angela M

    There are times when everything here really is beautiful, but there were many times when it wasn't. The times when the complexities of a woman's recurring mental illness not only take over her life, but impacts the lives of the people close to her - her sister, the men in her life, her baby daughter. This story is filled with sadness and love as Lucia struggles with her demons, those voices in her head, the ups and downs, while trying to just live out her dreams and desires. It's also very much

    There are times when everything here really is beautiful, but there were many times when it wasn't. The times when the complexities of a woman's recurring mental illness not only take over her life, but impacts the lives of the people close to her - her sister, the men in her life, her baby daughter. This story is filled with sadness and love as Lucia struggles with her demons, those voices in her head, the ups and downs, while trying to just live out her dreams and desires. It's also very much her sister Miranda's story who is desperate to help Lucia get the right diagnosis, the right medication and puts her life on hold every time Lucia needs help whether she wants it or not .

    The story is told from multiple points of view - Miranda's and Lucia's, both when she is doing well and the times when she isn't. We also get the perspective of Manny, the Ecuadorian man who is the father of Lucia's daughter, with whom she has a relationship with after her marriage fails. It's hard to read at times as it depicts the difficulties of treatment, the difficulties of compliance with treatment and the difficulties of diagnosing the illness and the things that happen when Lucia won't take her meds. Is it schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, a combination ? I have had no real experience dealing with mental illness with anyone close to me so it's hard for me to tell how realistic the portrayal is but it definitely felt real and it was heartbreaking.

    There's so much to this story. The sisters' past with their mother who has lost her husband and emigrates from China to the US with Miranda and pregnant with Lucia. Lucia's move to Ecuador with Manny and their daughter, her continuing struggle. Throughout I couldn't help but want things to be better for Lucia and was pulled towards the end in hopes of that it would be. It's about how debilitating mental illness can be, about family bonds that can't be broken. A haunting tale, with characters you care about. I have to give 5 stars to this well written debut novel.

    I received an advanced copy of this book from Dorman Books through Edelweiss.

  • Dorie

    Every so often I come across a book that is so wonderful, so eye opening and so well written that I want to stand on a corner and press this book into everyone’s hands. This is one of them.

    With a thumbs up from Celeste Ng, one of my favorite authors and some favorable reviews from my goodreads friends, I was anxious to get into this novel which publishes at the beginning of January 2018. I was not prepared for the power of this story, the incredible bond between two sisters, their ability to lov

    Every so often I come across a book that is so wonderful, so eye opening and so well written that I want to stand on a corner and press this book into everyone’s hands. This is one of them.

    With a thumbs up from Celeste Ng, one of my favorite authors and some favorable reviews from my goodreads friends, I was anxious to get into this novel which publishes at the beginning of January 2018. I was not prepared for the power of this story, the incredible bond between two sisters, their ability to love each other but know when to let go and when to hold on.

    Lucia and Miranda were born in New Jersey, the daughters of a Chinese American who came to this country after her husband died to begin anew. She studied accounting and raised her two daughters. Miranda is the oldest at 11 and Lucia only four.

    Not much time is spent on their childhood but it was a good one and the girls prospered, did well in school and attended University. It isn’t until Lucia is in her twenties that she experiences her first full blown mental breakdown. She had been living with a much older man who loved her dearly but didn’t understand her mental illness. The diagnoses were mixed, schizophrenia, bipolar, or a combination of both. As so many people with mental illness she doesn’t like how she is when she is on medications. They make her feel dull, sleepy, not herself at all.

    Throughout the book Lucia wrestles with the voices in her head, she calls them “the serpents”. In Lucia’s words after her first inpatient hospital stay states “Later, I would be told I had a 20% chance of maintaining a full-time job, a 25% chance of living independently, a 40% chance of attempting suicide, a 10% chance of succeeding”. She was only 26 years old, this isn’t reassuring news for any of them. Still she loves to write, she writes about the people in their neighborhood, their immigrant stories. She longs for a job at a newspaper but whenever her mental illness is discovered she never lands that dream job.

    There are stories within stories. Lucia finding love but then abandoning it in search of a father for a baby that she desperately wants. She finds a form of love in Manny, an immigrant from Ecuador, and they return there for several years and raise the baby, Esperanza, in that bright and sunny place. They are poor in material things but compensated with the love of an extended family and a place where they all feel free for a long while, until Lucia once again is drawn down into her dark place with the voices and serpents she continually fights.

    Miranda, the ever watchful sister, never abandons Lucia. She finds her own love with Stephen and they move to Switzerland. For many years she monitors Lucia from afar. She loves her life in Switzerland, the peaceful community where they live, her husband is a urologist and she is involved in the community and chairing fund raising events at the hospital. Her husband loves her and never holds her back even when she travels to Ecuador to try and help Miranda but he also stated “you can’t help her, you have tried, you’ve been trying all these years. What about your life Miranda?”.

    I loved the Epilogue in this book which I won’t disclose, it’s beautiful, hopeful and strong. Buy this book, read it and maybe we can all understand a little bit more of what it must be like to live with a mental illness. The story is also told from multiple POV’s, including Lucia when she is “normal” and when she is having a “breakdown”, Miranda, Manny and Yonah,and these points of view strongly enhance the story. I also have to state that I am in awe of this author, that this is a debut novel is so impressive!

    I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss, thank you.

  • Theresa Alan

    It took me a little while to get into this novel about two sisters over many years, but once I got into the unique, dazzling style of storytelling, I was gripped. The older Miranda always looked out for her younger sister Lucia. Initially, they are close, but after Lucia’s first breakdown, tensions begin. If Lucia goes off her medication, she might have another break, and she resents Miranda’s, to her mind, patronizing way of trying to force her to take medication that makes her drowsy and cloud

    It took me a little while to get into this novel about two sisters over many years, but once I got into the unique, dazzling style of storytelling, I was gripped. The older Miranda always looked out for her younger sister Lucia. Initially, they are close, but after Lucia’s first breakdown, tensions begin. If Lucia goes off her medication, she might have another break, and she resents Miranda’s, to her mind, patronizing way of trying to force her to take medication that makes her drowsy and clouded.

    It becomes a tense story in a very different way than the suspense novels I read. This was because of the tension of waiting for Lucia to have another breakdown. I was rooting for all of the complex characters in this novel, so I wasn’t only worried for Lucia, but on the strain this caused for Miranda and her relationships, and the relationships Lucia had with her two great loves, both immigrants like Miranda and herself.

    If you’re looking for a light, funny read, this is not the book for you. If you’re looking for well-drawn characters that will stay with you long after you reach The End, I highly recommend this beautiful novel.

    Thanks so much to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.

    For more of my reviews, please visit:

  • Hannah

    This book broke my heart. In a million pieces.

    At its heart, this novel is about the bond between two sisters (I love that!): Miranda, the older, more responsible one, and Lucia, the younger one who everybody loves. After their mother’s death, Lucia starts to hear voices and spinning out of control, leaving her husband Yonah to have a child with a younger man, Manuel/ Manny, being in and out of hospital, seemingly to get better to then just spiral out of control again. Mira T. Lee tells a complex

    This book broke my heart. In a million pieces.

    At its heart, this novel is about the bond between two sisters (I love that!): Miranda, the older, more responsible one, and Lucia, the younger one who everybody loves. After their mother’s death, Lucia starts to hear voices and spinning out of control, leaving her husband Yonah to have a child with a younger man, Manuel/ Manny, being in and out of hospital, seemingly to get better to then just spiral out of control again. Mira T. Lee tells a complex story, dealing not only with mental illness, but also talking about experiences with immigration (Miranda and Lucia are Chinese-American, Yonah is from Israel and Manny is a illegal immigrant from Ecuador), about finding a home in the world, about finding a way to be happy. If there was one criticism of this book it would be that sometimes the author took on too much and the scope becomes too broad (the story spans different cities in the US, Ecuador, Switzerland, and China…).

    What impressed me most was how complex the characters and their interactions were; even when they were at odds with each other, each stayed sympathetic to this reader. The story is told very effectively from alternating viewpoints; each time recontextualizing what happened before and adding even more depth to the story. It takes about a third of the book before the narrative shifts for the first time to Lucia’s viewpoint; everything we see from her point of view is coloured by what we saw before.

    Mira T. Lee shows the difficulties of loving a person with mental illnesses, but also how difficult it is to be that person. There is a point in this story where every time Lucia does something Manny cannot understand, he blames her illness, never thinking that maybe he is not innocent in how their relationship evolves (cheating on her when she just had their baby, not understanding why she wants to work when they move to his family in Ecuador, and so on and so forth). Miranda does the same to a lesser extent: in her desire to protect her kid sister she loses sight of the fact that Lucia is still a grown-up who is allowed to make decisions her older sister would not make. She also hopes that just by making sure her sister takes her pills that the situation will be under control, simplifying the complex situation to a dangerous extent.

    There are no easy answers in this book, nobody is wholly innocent in how events unfold (except for Lucia’s and Manny’s daughter, obviously), but the characters stay sympathetic throughout, they were believable in their growth and their failures, and absolutely worth spending time with.

    First sentences: “A summer day in New Jersey. A house with a yard. The younger one, four, likes to fold her body over the seat of her swing, observe the world from upside down.”

    I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Viking in exchange for an honest review.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    At first, I thought this was going to be an immigrant novel, and it kind of is, but that's more of a background element. Lucy/Lucia moves with her single Chinese pregnant mother to the United States as a young girl. But the story quickly jumps to her adolescence and her first mental disorders surfacing and requiring hospitalization. Her sister tries to help, and the sister relationship is a thread throughout the novel. What if your sister was the only person who knew your medical secrets but liv

    At first, I thought this was going to be an immigrant novel, and it kind of is, but that's more of a background element. Lucy/Lucia moves with her single Chinese pregnant mother to the United States as a young girl. But the story quickly jumps to her adolescence and her first mental disorders surfacing and requiring hospitalization. Her sister tries to help, and the sister relationship is a thread throughout the novel. What if your sister was the only person who knew your medical secrets but lives far away with her own life?

    I feel like the author did an interesting thing here. The point of view changes so sometimes the pov is from Lucia, sometimes when she is lucid, but also when she isn't. And the moments that really stuck out to me were those where I was seeing the world from her perspective and her decisions seemed valid, and then it switches to an outsider and you realize that she is acting paranoid, delusional, potentially harmful to her child. It was quite the reminder that for a person suffering from mental illness, it's not that easy for them to see what others see, or to fully understand they need help or medication. I thought it was very effective.

    Lucy's second husband is Manny, an undocumented Ecuadorian, and along the way I realized that there are no white people in this novel, pretty awesome. Lucy had spent time in Latin America and at one point they move back there with their child, and I thought that was an unfairly challenging environment for her mental health but adds another interesting twist to the story.

  • Rachel

    is a quiet and thoughtful book about mental illness and the toll it takes on the relationship between two Chinese-American sisters. Miranda is the older, responsible one, who's spent her life looking after her younger sister, Lucia, impetuous and free-spirited. Throughout her adult life, Lucia grapples with an undefined mental illness (doctors are unable to determine if it's schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or something in between), and Miranda struggles with the gui

    is a quiet and thoughtful book about mental illness and the toll it takes on the relationship between two Chinese-American sisters. Miranda is the older, responsible one, who's spent her life looking after her younger sister, Lucia, impetuous and free-spirited. Throughout her adult life, Lucia grapples with an undefined mental illness (doctors are unable to determine if it's schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or something in between), and Miranda struggles with the guilt of never being able to help her sister quite enough.

    What's particularly striking about this book is how Mira T. Lee balances an array of perspectives, which serves to challenge the reader's perception on a single issue. We flit back and forth between Miranda, Lucia, Manuel (Lucia's young Ecuadorian lover), and Yonah (Lucia's husband), and we stay in each of their heads long enough that they genuinely feel like real people, each with their own strengths and biases and shortcomings. We hear from Lucia both when she's lucid and when she's wrestling with what she refers to as the 'serpents' in her mind, which provides us with a hard-hitting and candid exploration of how 'real' Lucia's paranoia and delusions feel to her. Lee also highlights the sad truth that there are often no easy answers when it comes to addressing severe mental illness - at different times in her life Lucia tries medication and hospitalization, and while I'm happy to say that this is not a narrative that maligns medication in any way (it's ultimately a rather pro-meds message), the reality of medicating doesn't provide Lucia with a simple solution, which is often the case. It's an important narrative that I think will resonate with anyone who's grappled with mental illness at some point, and I'm hoping that books like this and

    will succeed in starting some conversations about the stigma surrounding mental health in our society.

    But back to the narrative - I do have a few complaints. (1) It was too long by about a hundred pages. The plot stalled at about a third of the way through, and though the pace eventually rectified itself, there was still a lot of filler. I was initially sure I was going to breeze through this book, but for a while there in the middle picking it up was kind of a drag. (2) I'm not a fan of first and third person being used together in novels. I've seen it done well (e.g.,

    by Hannah Kent) but for the most part it doesn't work for me. Here it felt arbitrary and stylistic. The effect Lee created with the multiple POVs could have been easily achieved with exclusively either first or third person. (3) The timeline was occasionally unclear - there would be big time jumps between two chapters with hardly any indication.

    But all that said, I mostly really loved this.

    is a powerful and moving novel. Mira T. Lee comes out of the gate strong with this debut, taking on issues of mental health, immigration, familial duty, motherhood, and national and cultural identity. I'd highly recommend this to fans of Celeste Ng, Min Jin Lee, and/or Weike Wang.

  • *TUDOR^QUEEN*

    This book clarifies the harsh realities of a people living with mental illness. The main character Lucia suffers from schizoaffective disorder and possible bipolar disease with psychotic features. If she doesn't take her pills, she becomes a very frightening person to live with; harmful both to herself and others. For such people, it is very important to avoid stressful environments and get proper sleep. Above all else, they must take their medication and have periodic appointments with a psych

    This book clarifies the harsh realities of a people living with mental illness. The main character Lucia suffers from schizoaffective disorder and possible bipolar disease with psychotic features. If she doesn't take her pills, she becomes a very frightening person to live with; harmful both to herself and others. For such people, it is very important to avoid stressful environments and get proper sleep. Above all else, they must take their medication and have periodic appointments with a psych doctor to maintain their condition. This is a genetic disease. People are born with it and cannot help it. Of course, navigating the disease is a nightmare that their family and loved ones endure.

    This is a story of two sisters of Chinese descent who emigrated to the US with their mother. The younger one, Lucia, was a few months away from being born. The elder sister is Miranda. The mother bravely emigrated in her very pregnant state, along with daughter Miranda, leaving an unhappy marriage behind which ended in her husband's death. With the mother's strength and determination, she obtains an educational degree to attain employment that provides a good home for herself and her daughters. When the sisters are older and making their own way in the world, the mother is battling cancer. During Mom's years fighting cancer, Lucia experiences her first crisis with mental illness. In Miranda's role as older sister, just as she watched over Lucia when Mom was working or going to school, she continues in that role after Mom dies. As the sisters' pathways in life shoot in wildly different directions, Miranda is always a phone call away when Lucia is in mental crisis. Miranda has all the pamphlets about her sister's disease, the medication list, and a fierce determination to look out for Lucia's best interests.

    Mental illness aside, Lucia is a personality who takes chances, travels broadly, and is well-liked due to her non-judgemental nature. She is a the wild child in contrast with her more strait-laced and "adult-like" sister. Miranda often wonders where Lucia's personality ends and the illness begins.

    There are also two wonderful characters in the book, Israeli born Yonah and Ecuadorian illegal immigrant Manny. Both are love interests of Lucia's and have their own endearing and admirable qualities.

    My biggest takeaways from this book were regarding the topics of mental illness and illegal immigration. The author provided much thought-provoking insight to these very serious issues.

    Thank you to publisher Viking/Dorman who provided an advance reader copy via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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