Everything Here Is Beautiful (Lee)

Everything Here Is Beautiful 
Mira T. Lee, 2018
Penguin Publishing
368 pp.
ISBN-13:
9780735221963


Summary
A dazzling novel of two sisters and their emotional journey through love, loyalty, and heartbreak

Two sisters—Miranda, the older, responsible one, always her younger sister’s protector; Lucia, the headstrong, unpredictable one, whose impulses are huge and, often, life changing.

When their mother dies and Lucia starts hearing voices, it is Miranda who must find a way to reach her sister.

But Lucia impetuously plows ahead, marrying a bighearted, older man only to leave him, suddenly, to have a baby with a young Latino immigrant. She moves her new family from the States to Ecuador and back again, but the bitter constant is that she is, in fact, mentally ill. Lucia lives life on a grand scale, until, inevitably, she crashes to earth.
 
Miranda leaves her own self-contained life in Switzerland to rescue her sister again—but only Lucia can decide whether she wants to be saved. The bonds of sisterly devotion stretch across oceans—but what does it take to break them?
 
Told in alternating points of view, Everything Here Is Beautiful is, at its heart, the story of a young woman’s quest to find fulfillment and a life unconstrained by her illness. But it’s also an unforgettable, gut-wrenching story of the sacrifices we make to truly love someone—and when loyalty to one’s self must prevail over all. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—1970
Where—N/A
Education—Stanford University
Currently—lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts


Mira T. Lee’s work has been published in numerous quarterlies and reviews, including The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, and Triquarterly. She was awarded an Artist’s Fellowship by the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2012, and has twice received special mention for the Pushcart Prize.

She is a graduate of Stanford University, and currently lives with her husband and two young sons in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is her debut novel. (From the publisher.)



Book Reviews
A] promising debut.… Lee handles a sensitive subject with empathy and courage. Readers will find much to admire and ponder throughout, and Lucy’s section reveals Lee as a writer of considerable talent and power.
Publishers Weekly


First novelist Lee's story of mental illness and its effects on Lucia and those who love her alternates points of view from among various characters. The portrayal of sisterly love and its limits is visceral. A solid choice for general fiction readers.
Library Journal


The interaction of cultures, with the inevitable misunderstandings that accompany it, forms a vibrant subtheme, and as the novel branches out from New York to Ecuador and then Minnesota, its sense of place deepens.
Booklist


To Lee's credit, Lucia, the more compellingly drawn of the two siblings, never seems like a psychological case study. Instead, we get inside her head—perhaps even inside her soul—to grapple with the challenges she faces.… [B]eautifully written.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. Many of the characters in the novel struggle to find balance between self-fulfillment and obligation to others. What would you have done if you were in Lucia’s situation in the campo? Have you ever had to choose between what you want for yourself and what’s best for someone you love (e.g., a child)?
 
2. Miranda has been caring for her younger sister since she was a child. But as an adult, what role should she play in her sister’s life? Did you find her actions caring or meddlesome? 
 
3. Is Lucia a modern woman trying to balance family, career, and personal fulfillment or is she "rash, reckless, irresponsible"? To what lengths would you go/have gone to become a mother? Is it ever not okay for a woman to have a child?
 
4. Manny has to live with the brunt of Lucia’s illness. At one point he reflects: "This was love, or this was duty, he could no longer tell the difference." What is the difference? When does love turn into duty and when does duty become love? Do you consider Manny loyal, or is he simply passive? Do Manny and Lucia love each other? 
 
5. In the book, Lee writes, "immigrants are the strongest.… Everywhere we go, we rebuild." All the characters in the novel are immigrants, rebuilding their lives in some way. But who is running away from something, and who is running toward something? How do their immigrant experiences differ?
 
6. How does ethnicity/culture play into this novel? Would you consider this an ethnic novel? Why or why not? Could the same story have been told if the characters were white?
 
7. Lucia points out that in our society, cancer survivors are viewed much differently from sufferers of mental illness. Do you agree? Do you know someone who has a mental illness? How does stigma affect our views of mental illness? 
 
8. Anosognosia, or "lack of insight," is a frequent symptom of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and makes these illnesses especially difficult to treat. How do you help someone who doesn’t realize they are ill? How did you feel about Manny putting pills in Lucia’s tea?
 
9. "He tried so hard to love her—yet how best to love her still eluded him." The men in the book struggle with how best to love the women in their lives. Should Yonah have let Lucia walk out of their marriage so easily? Should Stefan have supported Miranda’s efforts to help her sister at the expense of her own well-being? Are there right or wrong ways to love someone?
 
10. Who is most to blame for Lucia’s end? Herself? Yonah? Miranda? Manny? Could someone have done something differently to alter the outcome? What do you think happened to Lucia?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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