Rated 3 of 5 stars
This was my first Jean Kwok novel and I found it be well-written but a bit slow to the point. Kwok writes with a beautiful prose that describes in detail the landscape, environment with a decent nod to all cultural elements. She dances on the line of cultural awareness, ethno-centricism and racism which makes me very happy to see as many writers of color either go fully into racism or detour from it completely. Her subtlety was perfect. This is, by nature, a character-driven storyline meant to make readers fall in love with Sylvie Lee and give a glimpse into her complex life through her own narration and those of her family members. Sylvie Lee is missing after having flown to the Netherlands to be there for ailing grandmother, arguably her favorite person in the world even though she hasn’t seen her in nearly 20 years. Once she gets to Netherlands, she is thrust back into her childhood nightmare, Helena, her cousin’s home. Sylvie Lee lived in the home with Helena and her husband, Willem, as a small child but found only solace with her cousin, Lukas, and her caretaker grandmother. Lukas and Sylvie develop a strong bond growing up together and upon her return, their friendship ignites again. Unfortunately, Helena is still on the war path and makes her stay miserable. Soon after her grandmother passes away, Sylvie is missing and no one can find where she’s gone. No trace is left. Sylvie’s family, mostly her little sister Amy, begin to search for her and the story of who Sylvie Lee really is starts to transform the woman they thought they knew.
In the story, there were many things that made me uncomfortable or confused but overall, I felt like Sylvie Lee was a strong main character. I did not care for the mother’s perspective and felt it didn’t give anything additional to the story. Recommended for readers who like a character-driven novel based on secrets revealed and strange familial relationships.
Raging Book Reviews
*Special thanks to William Morrow Books and Goodreads for a review copy. @williammorrowbooks #williammorrow @goodreads #goodreads #sylvieleeismissing