cover image Everything Here Is Beautiful

Everything Here Is Beautiful

Mira T. Lee. Viking/Dorman, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2196-3

At the opening of Lee’s promising debut, Chinese-American Lucia Bok marries a coarse yet charming Russian-Israeli Jew named Yonah. The newlyweds quickly settle into a life in Manhattan’s East Village, where Yonah runs a health food store and Lucy writes features for a Queens newspaper. But then, in quick succession, a mental illness Lucy thought had been cured returns and she realizes she wants a child. Those catalysts launch the rest of the novel’s sprawling turbulence as characters deal with love, duty, the medical establishment, heritage, and the difficult choices that shape a life. Lee tells the story from several points of view, and the section from Lucy’s perspective is the stand-out: Lucy is funny, observant, and emotionally intelligent. Her descriptions buzz with the unexpected: “They said I ‘suffer’ from schizoaffective disorder. That’s like the sampler plate of diagnoses, Best of Everything.” The other sections are staid by comparison, and the prose is occasionally marred by awkward, clipped constructions, as well as some distracting overreaches. But Lee handles a sensitive subject with empathy and courage. Readers will find much to admire and ponder throughout, and Lucy’s section reveals Lee as a writer of considerable talent and power. (Jan.)