Talk about a backlist book that deserves more praise. True to it's name, Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee is flat out beautiful. I enjoy reading a mix of backlist and new releases and sometimes find backlist books are more enjoyable because more people have read them and they generate more discussion. There is a lot to unpack with this one, including heavy themes of sisterhood, mental illness, and motherhood.
Lucia and Miranda are Chinese-American sisters who sit on opposite ends of the spectrum. Miranda is responsible, serious, and is constantly looking over and fussing over her younger sister, Lucia. Lucia is headstrong, free willed, and wants to live her life on a grand scale, but in reality, she suffers from mental illness that she needs to maintain. Miranda and Lucia look to each other after they lose their mother, until Miranda moves to Switzerland and Lucia is on her own with her path. Everything Here is Beautiful is a testament to sisterhood bond and how mental illness affects not only the individual who possesses it, but the others involved in their lives.
What I liked about Everything Here is Beautiful is that it gives multiple perspectives on how mental illness affects not only an individual, but a family unit. Lucia and Miranda are sisters, but after losing both of their parents at a young age, Miranda takes on more of the mother role in their relationship, fretting over Lucia and making sure she is taking her medication.
I found myself having more compassion for Lucia and being frustrated with Miranda. She seemed more like a mother than a sister and was constantly worrying over Lucia. But I also am empathetic to how Miranda felt. She only had her sister and her sister had her, she felt responsible for her and just wanted her to be healthy. Everything Here is Beautiful unearths how mental illness can change family dynamics and become an all encompassing presence in relationships. Ultimately, Lucia wanted to live her life to the fullest, but her illness held her back and that was something she did not want to accept. While she had periods of lucidity, some that lasted years, her illness eventually crept in and took over throughout her life, threatening her relationships with her sister, partner, and daughter. Those parts of the book were the most painful to read.
4.5 - 5 stars
"This much I understood about other people's families: They were complicated. You didn't pry."
"People think of home as a single fixed place, but when I went traveling, I found the community of extended family I'd never had."
"In grief, the future seems impossible."