Searching for Sylvie Lee is the heartbreaking family saga that explores the complexities of family and identity. Sylvie Lee is young, successful, and beautiful, but her life has become a false picture of who she truly is. Kwok’s story is ultimately about the devastating price that Sylvie pays for not being able to truly be herself.
The story was intriguing for me for several different reasons. I really enjoyed the cultural aspect of this story. Kwok does a nice job providing a picture of the Dutch culture, and the intricacies of being an outsider in the Netherlands. I was also immediately captivated by the story line. This is a mystery from the start, and I was eager early on to see how the unknown parts of this story would unfold. I also loved that the ending came as a complete surprise to me. I am usually a reader that can see an ending early on, and I love it when the ending comes as a surprise.
Searching for Sylvie Lee also explores a wide array of family dynamics. I especially appreciated the relationship portrayed between Sylvie and her sister Amy. Amy is the younger, less-successful, less-beautiful sister in the novel. While Amy’s feelings about Sylvie are complex and tinged with envy at times, Amy’s love for Sylvie shines through. I always appreciate it when an author can accurately capture the intricacies of family relationships, and Kwok has definitely done that here.
The book left me feeling heartbroken at the multiple chances for love and understanding to shine through in the dark places of this story. It was a reminder to me that things are not always as they seem on the surface, and that perhaps even those that we love the most can have parts of us that they hide.
This was a fantastic read, and I that I highly recommend you add to your summer reading list!
From the Publisher
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 bestselling 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 page-turner 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.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and William Morrow Books for the Advanced Reader Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
As always, thank you for stopping by to read my review of Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok. You can find me on Instagram at @stephy_reads to let my know what you think about this title!