STARRED REVIEW
January 2018

Song of a wanderer

By Mira T. Lee

Mira T. Lee’s debut novel, Everything Here Is Beautiful, is an astonishing and imaginative chronicle of mental illness and the unbreakable bonds of family.

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An inveterate free spirit, Lucia Bok is a dreamer and a seeker. It seems her brain and body never stop wandering, taking her from her first breaths in Tennessee to college in New York City and itinerant stints abroad in Latin America and Vietnam. But to what end? During her South American travels, she stumbles across the answer: The object of her quest is encapsulated by a Spanish word, querencia, which means “a place we’re most comfortable, where we know who we are, where we feel our most authentic selves.” This one word will define the rest of Lucia’s life and the battle she faces when her capricious eccentricities transform into full-blown psychoses, forcing her and her loved ones to discover where Lucia—and her illness—truly belongs in the world.

Mira T. Lee’s debut novel, Everything Here Is Beautiful, is an astonishing and imaginative chronicle of mental illness and the unbreakable bonds of family. Taking readers on a journey from the halls of a psychiatric ward to the remote countryside of Ecuador, Lee examines the enigma that is Lucia through various perspectives, bringing together in a discordant symphony the voices of her sister, her husband, her lover and even Lucia herself (in both her lucid and agitated states). In shimmering prose, Lee nimbly unfurls a story that slithers like a serpent back and forth through time and across the threshold between what is perceived and what is real, producing a nuanced view of a complex woman and what it means to love her.

Everything Here Is Beautiful boldly delves into mental illness’s profound impact on love and relationships, exploring tricky quandaries like to whom the burden of responsibility falls and whether it is possible to separate an individual from her illness. There are no easy answers to these questions, and Lee does not pretend otherwise. Instead, she presents us with a sensitive and elusive story of sisterhood and schizophrenia that is brimming with another one of Lucia’s favorite words: saudade, a deep, melancholic longing for a person or state that is absent.

This electrifying first novel is wistful, wise and utterly unforgettable.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Everything Here Is Beautiful

Everything Here Is Beautiful

By Mira T. Lee
Pamela Dorman
ISBN 9780735221963

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