Friday, May 31, 2019

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
  • ISBN-10: 0062834304 - Hardcover $30
  • Publisher: William Morrow (June 4, 2019), 336 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss.

 The blurb:
It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother - and then vanishes. 

Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn't rejoin her family in America until age nine.  Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love.

But what happened to Sylvie? Amy and her parents are distraught and desperate for answers, Sylvie has always looked out for them. Now, it's Amy's turn to help. Terrified yet determined, Amy retraces her sister's movements, flying to the last place Sylvie was seen.  But instead of simple answers, she discovers something much more valuable: the truth.  Sylvie, the golden girl, kept painful secrets. . . secrets that will reveal more about Amy's complicated family - and herself - than she ever could have imagined.

I'd loved Jean Kwok's earlier novels and was not sure how different Searching for Sylvie Lee would be.  I thoroughly enjoyed Searching for Sylvie Lee. It was unexpected and drew me in.  Kwok's earlier stories had focused on a young Asian American woman's coming of age story.  While Searching for Sylvie Lee  delivers this depth and drama as we learn about Sylvie and her sister Amy and their family's sacrifices, this latest work also incorporates a mystery.

When Sylvie Lee disappears while visiting her dying grandmother in the Netherlands, her younger sister Amy takes her first big trip overseas to find out what happened to her big sister.  Sylvie had always seemed so successful with her top grades, her Princeton degree, her old money WASP husband and her job as a management consultant.  Amy only starts to see the cracks in her sister's life when she is led to search for her sister.  

Searching for Sylvie Lee still has the sympathy and sensitivity towards the Lee family's difficult move to the USA but this is only one part of the family story.  As we learn about what her grandmother, her mother and father gave up, we grow to care about the Lee and Tan families.  Jean Kwok has delivered another heartbreaking, beautiful read. 

About the Author:
Jean Kwok is the New York Times and international bestselling author of Girl in Translation and Mambo in Chinatown. Her work has been published in eighteen countries and is taught in universities, colleges, and high schools across the world.  She has been selected for numerous honors, including the American Library Association Alex Award, the Chinese American Librarian Association Best Book Award, the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award international shortlist.  She received her bachelor's degree from Harvard University and earned an MFA from Columbia University. She is fluent in Chinese, Dutch, and English, and currently lives in the Netherlands.

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