Thanks and Love to my fierce beautiful cousin, Sherrie McGimsey, for pointing me to this amazing read. Our country’s failure to properly provide services and safety for our brothers and sisters with Serious Mental Illness is a failure to the families who love them as well. They are all our children.
Mira T. Lee‘s debut novel, Everything Here is Beautiful, was selected by the American Booksellers Association as one of Winter/Spring 2018’s Top 10 Debut titles. Her short fiction has appeared in journals such as the Southern Review, the Gettysburg Review, the Missouri Review, Triquarterly, Harvard Review, and American Short Fiction, and has twice received special mention for the Pushcart Prize. She was awarded the Peden Prize for Best Short Story byThe Missouri Review (2010), and an Artist’s Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (2012).
From Ms. Lee’s website:
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. Determined, impetuous, she plows ahead, marrying a big-hearted Israeli only to leave him, suddenly, to have a baby with a young Latino immigrant. She will move with her new family to Ecuador, but the bitter constant remains: she cannot escape her own mental illness. Lucia lives life on a grand scale, until inevitably, she crashes to earth. And then Miranda must decide, again, whether or not to step in — but this time, Lucia may not want to be saved. The bonds of sisterly devotion stretch across oceans, but what does it take to break them?
Told from alternating perspectives, Everything Here Is Beautiful is, at its core, a heart-wrenching family drama about relationships and tough choices — how much we’re willing to sacrifice for the ones we love, and when it’s time to let go and save ourselves.
From Pamela Dorman Books (Viking Penguin), January 2018.
from Kirkus Reviews
The tumult of loving someone with a chronic mental illness can exhaust even the most caring person.
Just ask Miranda, elder sister to Lucia, a brash, brilliant journalist whose periodic descent into severe psychosis has taxed their relationship and forced Miranda to confront the limits of family loyalty. Of course, she knows that Lucia can be attentive, charming, and kind, drawing in friends and colleagues—at least until the inevitable delusions take hold. It’s scary stuff. 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. Her loving first marriage, to an older Israeli East Village shop owner named Yonah, begins and ends abruptly, revealing the magnitude of Lucia’s impetuous nature. Later, she hooks up with Manuel, an undocumented Ecuadoran immigrant working odd jobs in Westchester Country, New York, and has a baby. A move to Ecuador, where Lucia, Manuel, and baby Esperanza live in close proximity to Manuel’s family, is both comforting and stifling and raises questions about the cultural assumptions governing gender, parenting, and assimilation. In addition, what it means to live outside one’s country of origin is explored from both Manuel’s and Lucia’s perspectives. The book also exposes the helplessness of family members wishing to fix a fraught situation; the class dimension of health care delivery; and the rampant misinformation surrounding the treatment and diagnosis of illnesses like schizoaffective disorder. Lastly, vivid descriptions of the gentrifying Lower East Side of 1990s New York City, the heavily immigrant towns along the Hudson River, and several communities in Ecuador ground the characters in distinct locations.
An evocative and beautifully written debut.