A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Everything Here is Beautiful - by Mira T. Lee - Feature and Review


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.



Everything Here Is BeautifulEverything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee is a 2018 Pamela Dorman Books publication.

Both breathtaking and heartbreaking-

This is a novel about the bonds of sisterhood, of familial duty, of love, all tested by the drain and strain of debilitating mental illness.

While the story is exquisitely painful and is not a book I’d recommend for someone feeling depressed or who may be in a bad place, it is also a beautifully written story, very powerful, and realistic, yet poignantly sensitive, without becoming maudlin.

The reader is given insight into Lucia’s thoughts and feelings, which are often free spirited, determined, and all told, relatively normal… until they are not.

When the illness takes over, she loses the ability to function and being inside her mind during the throes of a schizoid episode is a very scary place to be. It is both incredibly sad and horrifying to watch the metamorphosis.

Miranda is Lucia’s sister, her caretaker and the decision maker when it comes to making choices about her health. Miranda feels powerless, suffering as much as Lucia, but in an obviously different way, since she is left making very painful choices about what is best for her sister. Lucia is often bitterly resentful of Miranda’s role, disrupting the balance and nature of their relationship, as Miranda struggles to live and enjoy her own life.

While Miranda takes a traditional, stable path in life, Lucia’s relationships are more complicated, as she copes with the challenges of living outside her own country, motherhood, and the shadow of her illness haunting her and her loved ones. But, her fierce determination to live life to its fullest, and to be a good mother, are inspiring, despite the odds against her.

The drain mental illness takes on the family is emphasized, as even those who start out being involved and supportive, lose their tenacity, and fall away, like casualties or collateral damage.

The health care system is flawed, as are our many misguided and misinformed concepts of mental illness. It’s hard to understand. It’s not like a physical disability where people can see the obvious effects on the body. Having to cope with the stigma associated with mental disease and the treatments which are often difficult to adhere to, can impede progress or completely shut it down.

While watching the family dynamics morph from a typical sisterly relationship into one of obligation and bitterness, it’s hard to miss the sinister hold such a serious disease has on the lives of these characters.

But, mental illness is not the only subject addressed as the author quite adeptly paints a realistic portrait of immigration from different perspectives. The time Lucia spends in Ecuador, is as telling as Manny’s in America, with the pressure to assimilate, which also adds rich cultural details and diversity to the story.

This book is grave and somber, with a moderately upbeat epilogue, and I admit, I felt a bit melancholy for a while after reading it, but it brings a new awareness to its readers in an emotional and heart wrenching way that is necessary and real, and in such a way you will most assuredly find it hard to forget. This is a topic we need to center more conversations around, and this book could be a great segue to bringing these uncomfortable subjects out in the open. My hope is that these characters will touch a nerve, will open your heart, make you think, make you more sympathetic, more understanding, better informed, and more involved.






Mira T. Lee's debut novel, EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL, was recently named a Top 10 Debut of Winter/Spring 2018 by the American Booksellers Association. Her short fiction has appeared in journals such as the Southern Review, the Gettysburg Review, the Missouri Review, Harvard Review, and TriQuarterly, and has twice received special mention for the Pushcart Prize. Mira is a graduate of Stanford University and lives in Cambridge, MA.

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