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Searching for Sylvie Lee: A Novel

Searching for Sylvie Lee: A Novel


Searching for Sylvie Lee: A Novel

ratings:
4/5 (129 ratings)
Length:
12 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jun 4, 2019
ISBN:
9780062933317
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

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Also available as bookBook

Editor's Note

Book club pick…

TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager selected this mystery about a family trip that goes horribly wrong when a sibling goes missing as her June #ReadWithJenna pick. Hager said in the announcement on TODAY, “Any of us can imagine if our sister or our best friend went missing. Amy is searching for her sister and the sisterhood is I think the most beautiful part of it.” Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss also selected it for the Belletrist Book Club June pick.

Description

A poignant and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties binding three women — two sisters and their mother — in one Chinese immigrant family and explores what happens when the eldest daughter disappears and a series of family secrets emerge, from the New York Times best-selling author of Girl in Translation.

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.

A deeply moving story of family, secrets, identity, and longing, Searching for Sylvie Lee is both a gripping pause-resister and a sensitive portrait of an immigrant family. It is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone — especially those we love.

Publisher:
Released:
Jun 4, 2019
ISBN:
9780062933317
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Jean Kwok is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of Girl in Translation and Mambo in Chinatown. Her work has been published in twenty 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 Librarians Association Best Book Award and 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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What people think about Searching for Sylvie Lee

4.2
129 ratings / 34 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    Jean Kwok’s latest novel is rueful, richly detailed and often harrowing as we follow three women; the mother, the younger sister - Amy, and Sylvie Lee, the missing beautiful and successful older daughter.The title is the first hint that there is more to the storyline than just a “disappearance”. As a mindful writer, Kwok makes her point in a deliberate and quietly suspenseful style.At the beginning this storyline was a slow burn but by the end this book was definitely worth the wait as the puzzles presented by unreliable narrators intertwine in a seamless way. I often wondered as withheld secrets were eluded or contradicted who was telling the truth.A deliberate and suspenseful tale spiked with themes of cultural identity, cultural expectations and the differing views of immigration on generations within a family.This book is a terrific pick for book clubs as it showcases how memory become story and thus a form of immortality.
  • (3/5)
    Successful Sylvie disappears, shy Amy goes to find her sister. Great storytelling, one gets absorbed in the book, but not a memorable story. And somewhat lacking as a mystery. While many characters were portrayed as suspects, the denouement was well hinted at and not particularly satisfying. The author made a good point that people's motives aren't always what they seem and character has many influences. I was surprised that while protesting the racism directed at Asians, the author was quite willing to portray other nationalities with generalities of thought and/or behavior.
  • (4/5)
    Sylvie Lee, the eldest daughter of a Chinese immigrant family, mysteriously disappears, and her younger sister Amy begins a search for her in The Netherlands, where Sylvie was visiting her dying grandmother.This story, told in flashbacks by the three main characters, is about complicated family relationships and family secrets, and there turned out to be many more secrets than just how Sylvie disappeared. Interesting to me were the cultural differences this Chinese family had to overcome, both in the United States and in The Netherlands.
  • (5/5)
    Here's a multi-narrator, suspenseful domestic thriller set in Amsterdam, featuring a fractured Chinese-American family. Amy is searching for her elder sister Sylvie, who disappeared after returning to Holland to see their dying grandmother. Sylvie was raised by her aunt and uncle in Amsterdam until she was nine, due to the financial struggles of her parents, who were just getting launched in New York City after emigrating from China. Sylvie, on the surface successful in marriage and career, is really yearning to return to Europe and especially to see her cousin Lukas, her childhood companion. The voices of Amy, Sylvie, and their mother, all owning disparate pieces of the puzzle of Sylvie, are dramatic and sympathetic, and there are excellent secondary character as well. A fine, suspenseful novel.Quotes: "Ma is delicate and yielding, like a coconut rice ball. Sylvie is all long limbs and sharp edges, more of a broadsword saber.""If you do not speak, no one will ever hear you."
  • (4/5)
    Although superficially, this story might get tagged as a mystery, it's really a story about family dynamics, and especially family secrets. Sylvie, the perfect older daughter of a Chinese American family, goes missing in the Netherlands and it's up to her younger sister Amy to try and find her. The story alternates between Amy's and Sylvie's point of view and often recounts the same situation but through completely different eyes. What unfolds is a complicated intertwined mess of family relationships and secrets. I thought the setting in the Netherlands was especially fascinating and vividly portrayed.
  • (4/5)
    This novel begins with a Willa Cather quote reflecting the main theme of the story: “The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one’s own.”Amy Lee, 26, travels from Queens, New York to the suburbs of Amsterdam in the Netherlands after her older sister Sylvie goes missing. Sylvie had lived in the Netherlands until she was nine with their Grandma and their cousins, the Tan family, because her young immigrant parents in New York could not afford to support her. Sylvie recently went back to the Netherlands when she heard her beloved Grandma was dying. Then Sylvie disappeared.Amy has always idolized Sylvie: “Often there’s a dichotomy between the beautiful sister and the smart one, but in our family, both of those qualities belong to my sister. And me, I am only a shadow, an afterthought, a faltering echo.”Ironically, we learn in the chapters narrated alternately by Amy, Sylvie, and Ma, that Sylvie felt the same way about Amy. As much as the sisters love each other, each doesn’t really know who the other is, nor what is in her heart. Nor do they really see behind the facades of others in their family. There were a number of barriers to transparency in their lives. As with many immigrant families, the younger generation spoke a different language. Amy’s native language was English and Sylvie’s was Dutch, while Ma continued to speak primarily in Chinese. Not only were their languages different; all three of them grew up in different cultures. The daughters also experienced tension between, on the one hand, the culture at school and work, and on the other, the culture their parents inculcated at home. This split seemed especially salient for them because both in the U.S. and in the Netherlands, Amy and Sylvie had been taunted and bullied for being Asian. All of this encouraged them to keep their heads low and remain apart from others: the effects were long-lasting. For Sylvie it meant developing a persona that was “acceptable” for someone of a minority race (although, as she found, it was never really acceptable not to be white). But after a while, even Sylvie didn’t know who she was anymore. Sylvie also discovered she didn’t even know her own husband, Jim. When she came to see him as Amy did, she realized “In love and life, we never know when we are telling ourselves stories. We are the ultimate unreliable narrators.” Or as Billy Joel said in his lyrics for "The Stranger": "Why were you so surprisedThat you never saw the strangerDid you ever let your loverSee the stranger in yourself…"Some of the secrets everyone is harboring do eventually come to light however, and we finally learn what happened to Sylvie. An epilogue eight months later ties up loose ends. As Amy muses:“How my knowledge of Sylvie, and Ma, of myself has changed. We had all been hidden behind the curtain of language and culture: from each other, from ourselves. I have learned that though the curtains in the Netherlands are always open, there is much that can be concealed in broad daylight. . . . The truth is, it is impossible to hide from yourself. Another truth: it is possible to find yourself anywhere.”Discussion: I tend to concur with the view promulgated by Benjamin Dreyer, Random House Copy Chief, in his recent book Dreyer’s English. He advocates judicious and sparing use of dialect. For example, non-English speakers think in their native language, not in broken English. In this book, the author has Ma thinking in broken English rather than in a grammatical version of her native Chinese. Evaluation: I liked this very moving story, although I wasn’t as impressed with the writing as I had been with Kwok’s previous two books. I would still recommend it - the author offers wonderful insights in all of her work into the perils and promises of immigration, and the acculturation challenges for all involved.
  • (4/5)
    I received this book from Library Thing early reviewers. The book seems to be billed as a mystery, but in fact it is much more. Yes, Sylvie is missing, but the layers of family history and secrets are far more compelling. And the descriptions of the status and experiences of immigrants in both New York and the Netherlands are really well done. Stay away from the reviews which include spoiler alerts...to give away the answer to the disappearance and the reasons behind it will ruin the story for you. (Not sure why reviewers feel the need to do that.) generally a well written and interesting book.
  • (4/5)
    An aphorism is a short clever saying that is intended to express a general truth. Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok is filled with them. Three random examples are:Well, if dogs could prey, it would rain bones.But those who wish to eat honey must suffer the sting of the bees.If one often walks by the riverside, one's shoes will eventually get wet.They add so much to the flavor of Kwok's third novel. But this is a decidedly different sort of novel from her other two, both of which I have read and enjoyed. This one is a dark, suspenseful mystery. I very much appreciate when a good novelist writes different sorts of books. So many seem to write books that are so similar. This book is about an immigrant family with inter-generational secrets and takes place in New York City and The Netherlands. Kwok paints a picture with every scene she describes. Her characters are very well developed, and experience growth and change over time. Sylvie's childhood was with her grandmother and cousin's family in The Netherlands because her immigrant parents could not care for her when they first came to New York City. At about nine years of age she rejoins them and her young sister. When this hard striving, married young woman learns that her beloved grandmother is terminally ill, she returns to The Netherlands to be with her. She does not return home and disappears. Her sister Amy travels to The Netherlands hoping to find her. The novel goes back and forth from the perspective of each sister as well as some short chapters from the perspective of their mother.Although the novel progresses very slowly at times it certainly kept me reading to find out what happened to Sylvie. In fact, I broke my cardinal rule and looked a little ahead, when I needed more information. Luckily, I did not fully uncover the true answer to the mystery, so I was able to avoid the real answers until I got to the end.
  • (2/5)
    Searching For Sylvie Lee, Jean KwokThis novel proceeds in the voices of the three major female characters, Sylvie, her sister Amy, and Ma, the mother of both. The story unfolds as their memories are very slowly related to the reader. There are buried family secrets which will ultimately determine the outcome of the book. The narrative felt drawn out and proceeded too slowly for me. It took me weeks and weeks to finish this novel. It traveled in many directions which did not draw me in immediately. At first I thought it was a murder mystery, than a romance novel, than a story about family secrets, then about unrequited love, then about the experience of the immigrant, then about interracial marriages, then about alternate sexuality, then about infidelity, then about race, and even more tangential issues. In essence, it was a novel that attempted to subtly present the progressive agenda, but it became heavy handed instead! There were too many diversions, none of which were fully developed before the tale danced off in another direction. When the Lees emigrated from China to America, “the beautiful country”, they decided to temporarily send their daughter Sylvie to live with relatives in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Helena and Wilhem Tan had also emigrated from China. They were financially better off and operated their own restaurant. Once on their feet, the Lees hoped to retrieve Sylvie. The Tans had a son Lucas, who was the same age as Sylvie so she would have a friend. The Tans did not practice the old ways of China, however, while the Lees continued to do so. Therefore Sylvie is raised far differently than her sister Amy, born in America while she was in Holland. Also, for some reason, Helena disliked Sylvie and mistreated her. Ma’s mother also lived with the Tans, and she is the person who is kind to Sylvie and who really raises her during her time there. The book stresses the difficulties of living as immigrants and as people who are not white, in a foreign country, and this is emphasized through the experiences of both families as they move through their lives.As each of the important characters dealt with their experiences, in their own unique way, it sometimes got repetitious and tedious. Each suffered from their own emotional issues. Ma had always felt guilty and insecure about her life and the choices she made. She never truly adjusted to American ways and did not speak the language well. Sylvie felt cheated and abused, unloved and insecure, because she had been sent away to live with relatives. One of her eyes had a defect, and she had a protruding tooth. In addition to being Chinese and extremely different in a place like Amsterdam, those physical issues caused her to be bullied. She retreated into a shell and was determined to prove her worth by being the best in school and at work, but she was never fully accepted by others. She kept her distance from others and was perceived as cold, thus she always felt like, and was treated as, an outsider. Amy was born in America while Sylvie was in Europe. She had her own problems to contend with since she had a stammer and was very shy. Being different in America was no different than being different in Amsterdam. Both situations made the girls sad and withdrawn. When Sylvie came to America, Ma neglected Amy and worshiped Sylvie. Sylvie was the one Amy leaned on for support, the one who comforted her. Sylvie grew up to seem far more outgoing and far stronger than Amy, who remained shy and introverted. Sylvie married Jim, a professor. He was white and from an elite, wealthy family. They had snobbish ideas about one’s place in, and behavior in, the world. Sylvie had her own very successful career in the corporate world. She was now financially secure, but still different on many levels!The men in the book, Pa, Lucus, Filip and Wilhem, are largely irrelevant or not well developed. The women are generally portrayed as mean and strong, rigid and controlled, as well as controlling. The men are meeker and softer in their behavior and development, with hidden violent tendencies. Both the men and women harbor secrets which will undue all of their lives.When Sylvie suddenly disappears, after visiting Holland for her grandmother’s impending death, the story continues to become distracted with side issues. The characters did not feel authentic nor did their behavior. Sometimes it felt contradictory. I did not develop an attachment to any of them or a particular liking for any of them. I found them weak, selfish, self-serving, immature and headstrong, if not also lacking in common sense and judgment. The book is about very flawed characters that never seem to move on from their early descriptions as children.Perhaps it was the author’s intent to distance the characters from the reader, emphasizing their “otherness” by not developing any significant traits in them to draw them closer to the reader. Just as they never felt accepted in their worlds, maybe she wanted the reader to also not accept them, and to always view them as penultimate outsiders. The moral judgment of the characters, white, homosexual, heterosexual, Asian, American, rich and poor, was atrocious. While I wanted to keep reading to discover where the book would lead me, I was disappointed when it finally decided on one direction and took me there. At times, the narrative waxed poetic and at times it felt like it was geared to a young adult reader. It never truly grew up into a book I could recommend to others.
  • (5/5)
    Searching for Sylvie Lee is so many things woven together into one book: a mystery dealing with relationships, immigration, families, cultures, secrets, and so much more. I absolutely love this book. It’s a beautifully written, thought-provoking novel that will fill you with so many emotions. “It is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone—especially those we love.”Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.
  • (4/5)
    A quick paced novel, Searching for Sylvie Lee kept me interested throughout its entirety. It’s not the most original book, but the characters are believable and I enjoyed the differences presented on how one views oneself vs how others perceive you.
  • (4/5)
    Searching for Sylvie Lee was a beautifully written story of two sisters, culture, immigration, generational differences, and family conflict and secrets. When Sylvie goes missing, Amy must confront their differences in order to discover the truth.
  • (3/5)
    It is so hard to figure out why a book will resonate so greatly with some, and not others. This book is a case in point, it has garnered some terrific reviews, but there were some plot points that were for me, not realistic. A young Chinese woman disappears after returning to the Netherlands, when the grandmother that helped raise her, was dying. Although her parents lived in the United States, Sylvie herself lived in the Netherlands for her first nine years. Her younger sister, Amy, who thinks Sylvie perfect, flies to the Netherlands to find out what happened to her sister.In alternating chapters we hear from Amy, Sylvie herself and their mother. Changing views of Sylvie are revealed from her own words. There are many family secrets, and a suspected hidden treasures passed down from mother to daughter. Jealousy, and its ill effects, an ugliness that spreads. The struggle for immigrants to assimilate. Yet, I had trouble connecting to the characters. We do find out what happened to Sylvie and why, though I didn't feel I was given enough reasons to find the ending credible.
  • (5/5)
    What a beautiful book, filled with enormous love and grief. This copy is going into my antique bookcare to be treasured, always.
  • (5/5)
    I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers. I really enjoyed this novel; I was enthralled from the first word to the last. The author takes you on a journey through Chinese and Dutch culture through the eyes of Amy and Sylvie Lee (sisters) and their ma. Amy is searching for missing Sylvie in the Netherlands where more questions lead to Amy seeing a side of Sylvie that she never knew. The book talks of being an immigrant and the racism that is so rampant. Ultimately finding Sylvie leads to generational healing as all secrets are laid bare.
  • (4/5)
    "...we are all ultimately unreliable storytellers of our own lives, whether we wish it so or not, whether we share a common language or not." Jean Kwok's novel, "Searching for Sylvie Lee" takes the reader along a journey as a family, each with secrets of their own that impact their interactions. The looming question of why each responds is laced into the mystery of Sylvie's disappearance in The Netherlands, the country where she lived for the first 8 years of her life under the eyes of her grandmother and reared beside her cousin. Threaded along side the disappearance is: the many facets of immigration, remaining true to your culture while living in a new one, discrimination/bullying of the immigrant, cultural insensitivity, striving for perfection as a way to achieve acceptance. Kwok masterly is a reliable storyteller of the family and takes the reader into their lives without hammering upon these side threads -- they are introduced to shape the actions of the family and give the reader time to ponder their influence.As Amy, Sylvie's sister, says to Filip, the musician who knew Sylvie and has come to Amy, "It is sad how trauma gets passed down from generation to generation. Helena, my own ma and pa: they taught us to keep our heads low, to hold our secrets as closed as an oyster. Keep ourselves apart from everyone else. At a certain point, you wind up dividing yourself internally into so many different people you do not even know who you are anymore." For Sylvie, she was no longer a granddaughter (grandma had passed), no longer a wife (her marriage had disintegrated), no longer an employee (she had been fired), no longer needed by her sister (Amy was now an adult). For Sylvie, the time had arrived to embrace a long ago prophecy and the time had come for the family to expose the secrets and begin to heal.I received my copy of this novel through LibraryThing's Early Reader program.
  • (5/5)
    This story was engaging and the writing made you really care about what happened to the characters. It also was an interesting portrayal of what it is like to be in a foreign culture, both as a Chinese person in America and in the Netherlands. Highly recommended.
  • (4/5)
    Sylvie Lee goes to Amsterdam to see her dying grandmother, and disappears. Amy Lee, her sister, lives in Brooklyn with their parents, follows to try to find her. The Lees are an immigrant family with a complicated past. Amy and Sylvie's mother left Sylvie as a small child with her mother in the Netherlands, as her life in the US was difficult. Sylvie joined the family in the US when she was 9 and Amy was a toddler. In the process of searching for Sylvie, Amy learns that Sylvie's seemingly perfect life, career, and marriage, are falling apart. The narrative follows the sisters' experiences in the Netherlands, before her disappearance for Sylvie, after for Amy. Each uncovers family secrets and comes to understand her family in a new way. While at first it was jarring to me to think about a Chinese family settled in the Netherlands, I got past my limited view and found the story compelling.
  • (3/5)
    Sylvie Lee is a successful, beautiful woman. Her younger sister, Amy, idolizes her. When news reaches them that their grandmother is dying in the Netherlands, Sylvie flies there to be with her. Sylvie grew up in the Netherlands. Her parents were too poor to take care of her when she was born and sent her to live with her grandmother and the Tan family. Sylvie didn’t return to the US and her parents until she was 9 years old. But now Sylvie has returned to the place she thinks of as home. But Amy and her parents become deeply upset when Sylvie disappears and they are unable to get any answers as to what happened. Shy Amy must find the courage to go find her sister. Her search for Sylvie uncovers long concealed family secrets.The book fluctuates between chapters detailing Amy’s search for Sylvie and Sylvie telling her story starting a month earlier when she leaves for the Netherlands and occasionally a chapter from their mother’s point of view. The character development in this book is very good and I cared about this family. The author does a particularly good job of detailing the cultural differences and problems this immigrant family faced and the racism shown to the Chinese in the Netherlands. But I was disappointed in some respects and felt parts of the books were too much like a soap opera. I did not feel that the ending rang true at all and it felt out of place to me.This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.
  • (4/5)
    I found a lot to enjoy in this story of a woman's search for her sister. I was quickly drawn in both because I wanted an answer to the mystery and because I cared about the characters.The characters felt real. They were fully developed and flawed. There was also considerable character growth (something that's important to me), especially on the part of Amy. At the beginning she was shy and sheltered. The furthest she'd ever gone from New York was New Jersey. In search of her sister, however, Amy traveled alone to Europe, and that was just the start of her character's evolution.The narrative style further helped me to get to know these women. Amy and Sylvie took turns doing most of the narration, though their mother occasionally took part, and each woman had a distinctive voice. Sylvie's storytelling begins a month before her disappearance while Amy and their mother pick up about the time Sylvie goes missing. The alternating points of view also served as an effective way to unravel the mystery.The settings, primarily the Netherlands but also Queens, Brooklyn Heights, and Venice, were brought to life and felt a bit like characters in their own right.However, what I appreciated most was the way the story incorporated real life issues such as obstacles immigrants face and struggles women sometimes deal with in the workplace. There was domestic drama too, showing the power of secrets to either destroy or heal a family.Though this is the first book I've read by this author, it will not be the last. I would recommend it to those who enjoy mysteries or even just a good story.Thank you to NetGalley for the E-ARC.
  • (5/5)
    Excellent book that spans three cultures: Chinese, American and Dutch. This book is about a Chinese couple who struggle financially and who have a female child they send to live with relatives in the Netherlands. When she returns to her parents in America she develops a life that appears successful on its face. Her sister Amy adores her. Sylvia the first daughter raised in the Netherlands returns when her grandmother is dying. From this time she disappears and the bulk of the book describes from each characters perspective what happens. There are twists and turns and an unanticipated ending. The writing is beautiful and the plot captivating. I highly recommend this book..
  • (3/5)
    Though I am certain Searching for Sylvie Lee will be well received by many, it was far too chick lit-ish for my taste. I found it implausible, predictable, and not a thriller as Scott Turrowhad blurbed it to be on the back cover. I found the characters unlikeable. Why didn’t they simply talk to one another instead of running around at such loose ends?I did like Kwok’s use of different voices to tell the story and the way the original language structure was preserved for each of the different languages they spoke. I think it helped build tension and convey distance between the characters.
  • (4/5)
    Enjoyable, absorbing read. Characters are well developed and the multiple perspectives add to the understanding of the complexity of family relationships. Overall plot twists did not feel gratuitous.quickly.
  • (3/5)
    This is the story of two sisters born to Chinese immigrant parents. The older sister, Sylvie Lee, is sent to the Netherlands to live with her relatives when the parents simply can't afford the lifestyle they would like to give her. Sylvie's ties to Amsterdam after returning to her parents and sister are strong. She has a seemingly successful career and marriage in New York, so her disappearance is puzzling. When Sylvie goes missing, the younger sister, Amy, immediately flies to Amsterdam to uncover any evidence and finds strange relationships that revolved around Sylvie. Kwok's book are very informative about the Chinese experience in America and abroad.I enjoyed Girl in Translation more than this book. I felt it could have been shorter, and I did weary of all the rabbit holes we went down to discover what happened to Sylvie.My thanks to LibraryThing and the publisher for this ARC.
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed learning about life in the Netherlands. It was a unique story. A few of the middle chapters were a bit slow but overall worthwhile read.
  • (5/5)
    It was captivating from start to finish The story came alive while I listened intently
  • (4/5)
    A special thank you to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and William Morrow for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.Kwok's latest work begins with a mystery. The oldest Lee daughter, Sylvie, vanishes while on a trip to the Netherlands where she was visiting with her dying grandmother one last time.Amy is the shy and sheltered baby of the Lee family who has always looked up to her sister. Sylvie fiercely loves her little sister even though she is seven years younger and they weren't raised together. She was raised in the Netherlands by her grandmother because her new immigrated parents were too poor. That choice weighed heavily on Sylvie's parents, even after she had returned.Deeply distraught and wracked with grief, the Lees want answers as to what happened to their daughter. Amy visits the last place that Sylvie was seen alive, and instead of uncovering answers, she learns of hidden secrets that speak to their complicated and delicate family dynamic.Searching for Sylvie Lee is a portrait of an immigrant family and an exploration of cultural constraints —even within the same family. Throughout the book, there is an overarching theme of loss as well as the high cost of keeping secrets.Told by Amy, Sylvie, and their mother, the narrative shifts back and forth in time. The woman reveal the emotions that they've been hiding as well as the truths that they have been guarding with the fear of being found out. Each character is thinking in their native tongues of English, Dutch, and Chinese—the distinctive voices, culture, and language shield each character.There is a tremendous amount of growth for Amy. She must overcome her crippling shyness in order to find her sister. A sister she is realizing that she actually knows little about. It is here where Kwok excels. Her writing has incredible purpose where Amy is concerned and it is some of the best in the book.My only issue was with the pacing of the book—I did find it slow overall, and that the narrative kept stalling because of too many flashbacks. That being said, this is an incredibly thoughtful and beautifully written book. There is such an innate and ingrained sadness to Kwok's words. If you do enjoy more of a literary type thriller, than I would definitely recommend this book.
  • (4/5)
    Great until the end. Lots of suspense. Many theories of what may have happened. A few twists along the way. The family connections were interesting and compelling to read. I just didn't like the end.
  • (4/5)
    A bit long winded and slow moving but worth the 'wait'.
  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Whoaaa, this book was intense. Although it wasn’t a “perfect” book, it was gripping and would 10/10 recommend.

    1 person found this helpful