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.
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published January 16th 2018 by Pamela Dorman Books
Has your life, or the life of a loved one or friend ever been touched by mental illness?
This is the story of Lucia and her debilitating battle living with mental illness. Difficult, poignant, heartbreaking....
I was actually getting quite unexpectedly attached to the characters in this novel. The diversity in cultures, ethnicity and backgrounds that played into this book were refreshing, real and down to Earth. An eye opener in some way, as I am not as familiar with the thematic of mental health issues and the way different cultures view or treat symptoms thereof.
Lucia and her sister Miranda are daughters of Chinese immigrants and with flashbacks in alternate voices, some of their past and upbringing is interjected into the timeline of the plot. We learn that Miranda, the older one of the two has always been the protector, teacher, mother, helping sister etc. for Lucia. With childlike voices we learn of the innocence of Lucia and her immature thought processes until she gets older. At times sporadic and erratic, her actions are defined by voices in her head and her mood. Frequently she disappears for a while to try some new idea or go to a new place that comes to mind. When life gets complicated or conflict arises with stress, she will suffer episodes of highs and debilitating lows.
Miranda is not affected by mental illness herself and her life is coming together after college seemingly fine. She finds a good man and moves to Austria. While Lucia’s love life is more turbulent. She falls head over heels in love with an immigrant from Israel and they get married quickly. They live in very tight quarters in his store in NY. But suddenly she has one of her episodes and is hospitalized. Her diagnosis being somewhere between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder she has to keep a strong regimen of meds. Then comes her desire for a baby, but her husband is already done having kids, so Lucia starts going out and eventually disappears. She ends up with a young Latino man, that is new to the US and her wish for a baby comes true. Eventually she has another of her episodes and now her sister and her new Latino boyfriend are trying to help her get back on her feet. But it is rocky…the relationship suffers. At some point Lucia convinces her boyfriend to move to back to the village he came from to raise their daughter. And the seeming beauty of the simplicity of life are a short-term cure. But again, it all comes crashing down for Lucia.
This is a book about the struggles for all involved parties as well as that of a person suffering from mental illness. It is, in a way, a story that travels beyond the boundaries of countries and time with the consistence of the ever present mental illness that transcends the suffering to no matter where. You cannot outrun it. You cannot completely treat it and you can’t fight it. It is EVER present.
Very interestingly and outright bottomless, ruthlessly honest has the portrait of mental illness been described in this story. From those that don’t understand it to those that are worried about a person suffering. It can drive people away and it can tear others apart and down. It seemed far-fetched to me at first that all the characters were immigrants and from different backgrounds. But it made it more evident that people handle things differently. I think it was a great way of showing that. At first I was not sure if I can get through a book like this. I also could not tell you whom I would root for. Because in their own right, each of these characters had redeeming qualities. They all did in a way their best to deal with Lucia and their individual situations or relationship with her. It’s a day by day, or hour by hour or week by week struggle!
I thought the book came together very beautiful in a way, with an unexpected ending. The last pages that lead up to the ultimate climax of the story were sweet and heart wrenching. It added the perspective of age and the aging process to it. As Lucia is reflecting on her life and struggles, maturity does catch up with her and for the briefest of moments even her troubles are forgotten…if only for a little while. But this all made this story go so unexpectedly deep.
If you can put away any misconception or notion of bias before you read this book and go into it unknowing like I did, you will find yourself touched by these characters till the end. The idea of not finishing this book will dissolve by the time you are a 3rd way in. And the audio version of the book brought different voices and accents of the characters alive beautifully. Unexpectedly captivating!