Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee
Published by Pamela Dorman Books, 358 pages, $26
Cantabrigian author Mira T. Lee portrays her protagonist as walking a fine line—jittery and glittery—between adventure and mental illness in this debut novel, Everything Here Is Beautiful. Lucia, a Chinese-American with a more mentally stable sister, Miranda, is open to quick connections and sudden decisions. Her husband, Yonah, is a one-armed Russian Jew, a divorced father who owns a health food store and shares her colorful energy.
As the book’s narrators shift, readers see Lucia reporting her own slides into psychotic delusions—where snakes tell her what to do—while Miranda describes going to the hospital, frantically persuading Lucia to take those hated-but-necessary medications. Back on her feet, Lucia leaves Yonah for Manny, an undocumented immigrant, and they have a beloved baby. After dealing with the inevitable postpartum psychosis, Lucia abruptly moves the family to Ecuador where wonderful friendships and lively times play out in the countryside. She writes for a paper, but then, of course, things go south once again.
Lucia’s heart, even in sunnier times, maintains its irrational way and she finds herself returning to familiar faces. Miranda and Manny develop an ability to deal with Lucia’s troubles, staying on top of medications and moods. Lee excels at representing the painful, all-encompassing effects of serious mental illness on a family.
From page 155: “The serpents invaded my head after Essy was born. I would sit in my bedroom, not moving for hours, terrified to wake them. Flanked by banana plants, oriented by the window, my knees pointed precisely to two o’clock. I needed to align my body with the earth’s magnetic field, like a grazing cow or caribou—only this way could my innermost thoughts resist detection by the mind X-rays from Central Compound.” ◆