Novels (and Netflix shows) about mental illness are a dime a dozen. So naturally we picked up Mira T. Lee’s Everything Here Is Beautiful (about two sisters, one of whom struggles with schizophrenia) with some trepidation. We shouldn’t have.
At the start, we meet the Boks, Chinese-American sisters who moved with their mother to the U.S. after the death of their father. In typical firstborn fashion, Miranda is responsible, driven and a little bit uptight. Basically, she’s the perfect counter to Lucia, who’s spontaneous, impulsive and seven years younger.
We see Lucia’s tendency toward giant leaps almost immediately, when she marries Yonah, a bighearted older man. They’re blissfully happy, until she starts hearing voices.
The rest of the novel navigates how Lucia’s mental illness (never officially diagnosed but referred to alternately as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) affects her and the people around her, specifically as she leaves her husband for an undocumented immigrant and begins a new life in Ecuador.
There’s no real “bad guy” in this book, which is refreshing. All four main characters have redeeming qualities and are genuinely trying their best given the circumstances. If there is a villain, it’s mental illness, which becomes a sort of common enemy for the group.
Everything is by no means beautiful in this novel, but it is an incredible story told in a deft, never-caricatured fashion. Bonus points for totally nailing how un-funny siblings' inside jokes can seem to the rest of us.