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Searching for Sylvie Lee

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Searching for Sylvie Lee

June 2019

Jean Kwok’s SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE untangles the complicated ties binding three women --- two sisters, Sylvie and Amy, and their mother --- in one Chinese immigrant family, and explores what happens when the eldest daughter disappears and a series of family secrets emerge. The story unfolds with pitch-perfect pacing from the moment that Amy receives a call from the Netherlands that Sylvie is missing. She first searches Sylvie’s New York apartment, and what she sees there has her hasten her way to the Netherlands to track down those who last saw her older sister. And from there, the quest to find Sylvie gets more and more tangled.

Sylvie has been known as the older, more together daughter, the one who Amy admired. But Sylvie has held a lot inside from the days when she was sent away from her home in New York to live with her relatives overseas, and readers will quickly see that she is searching for who she is, as well, giving the story a whole new dimension. We hear from Sylvie in her chapters, which unfold beginning in the month before she disappeared. What happened to her when she returned to the Netherlands to visit her dying grandmother? There is lots of action here, as well as old emotions rushing to the surface --- ones that she does not want to deal with.

The action is brisk, giving the book its shape as a thriller, plotted in a very smart way. Readers will be looking for Sylvie, but will be equally as mesmerized by what they find along the way.

Earlier this year, Jean shared stories about the inspiration for this novel, including her brother’s tragic death in a plane crash, which infused her writing about loss here. She also gave us a lot of background on her personal story, beginning when she emigrated to the States as a child. The family lived in a condemned building with no heat, and everyone, even the children, worked in factories. She understands the challenges of being an immigrant and the satisfaction that comes from overcoming them with lots of hard work. Clearly she has worked to hone her craft, sending her writing in a new direction with this book, which introduces readers to her in a new genre.

Book groups will have lots to discuss about this one!

Now I want to read Jean’s debut novel, GIRL IN TRANSLATION, which I missed when it first released in 2010.

Searching for Sylvie Lee
by Jean Kwok

  • Publication Date: June 4, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0062834304
  • ISBN-13: 9780062834300