NAMED A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK BY New York Times• Time • Marie Claire• Elle• Buzzfeed• Huffington Post• Good Housekeeping • The Week• Goodreads• New York Post • Publishers Weekly and many more
“This is a true beach read! You can’t put it down!” – Jenna Bush Hager, Today Show Book Club Pick
“Powerful . . . A twisting tale of love, loss, and dark family secrets.” — Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water
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.
Jean Kwok is the New York Times and international bestselling author of Girl in Translation and Mambo in Chinatown. Her work has been published in eighteen countries and is taught in universities, colleges, and high schools across the world. She has been selected for numerous honors, including the American Library Association Alex Award, the Chinese American Librarians Association Best Book Award and the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award international shortlist. She received her bachelor's degree from Harvard University and earned an MFA from Columbia University. She is fluent in Chinese, Dutch, and English, and currently lives in the Netherlands.
Searching for Sylvie Lee: A Novel 4.6 out of 5based on
3 months ago
The story of a young woman who is missing after she flys to be with her dying grandmother. This book captivated me from the first chapter. I love how each character's chapter is in first person with their own feelings and inner thoughts.
3 months ago
Excellent book, draws you in right away and doesn’t stop until the end.
19 days ago
Twisty plot to the end.
24 days ago
Excellent read. Surprise ending.
10 days ago
3 months ago
I found a lot to enjoy in this story of a woman's search for her sister. I was quickly drawn in both because I wanted an answer to the mystery and because I cared about the characters.
The characters felt real. They were fully developed and flawed. There was also considerable character growth (something that's important to me), especially on the part of Amy. At the beginning she was shy and sheltered. The furthest she'd ever gone from New York was New Jersey. In search of her sister, however, Amy traveled alone to Europe, and that was just the start of her character's evolution.
The narrative style further helped me to get to know these women. Amy and Sylvie took turns doing most of the narration, though their mother occasionally took part, and each woman had a distinctive voice. Sylvie's storytelling begins a month before her disappearance while Amy and their mother pick up about the time Sylvie goes missing. The alternating points of view also served as an effective way to unravel the mystery.
The settings, primarily the Netherlands but also Queens, Brooklyn Heights, and Venice, were brought to life and felt a bit like characters in their own right.
However, what I appreciated most was the way the story incorporated real life issues such as obstacles immigrants face and struggles women sometimes deal with in the workplace. There was domestic drama too, showing the power of secrets to either destroy or heal a family.
Though this is the first book I've read by this author, it will not be the last. I would recommend it to those who enjoy mysteries or even just a good story.
Thank you to NetGalley for the E-ARC.
3 months ago
This book was completely unexpected for me. It was complex, covering so many different aspects, but also so easy to read and be captivated by. Even the title can be looked at on many levels: the physical search and the unraveling of who Sylvie really is. Told from the viewpoints of the three different women in the Lee family, there is so much substance. I adored the characters from the beginning, and Kwok’s writing kept me entranced. I started reading and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Family, mystery, old secrets, and finding the path you were meant to be on are just some of the layers in this novel.
I would classify it as a must-read!
#SearchingforSylvieLee #Jean Kwok #HarperCollins #RIF
3 months ago
4 complicated family relationship stars
This complex book is chronicled by two sisters – Amy and Sylvie – and their mother. I hardly know how to start to explain this one. This Chinese immigrant family has ties to the Netherlands and New York. Sylvie was raised by her grandmother and other relatives in the Netherlands before she is reunited with her parents in New York at age 9. She never quite feels at home anywhere and has developed a beautiful successful persona that she hides behind. Her grandmother is dying, so Sylvie heads to the Netherlands to say goodbye and then mysteriously disappears.
Amy begins the desperate search and ends up finding deep family secrets. Amy wants to track down her beloved older sister Sylvie and the suspense builds as we read about Sylvie’s time reuniting with family and old friends before everyone loses track of her.
I enjoyed the chapters narrated by the mother and it becomes clear that her daughters don’t know her very well. In fact, the whole family seems to hold things in reserve and keeps secrets. There is also the complicated theme of identity and this family never quite seems at home, either in New York or the Netherlands.
What has happened to Sylvie is at the heart of the story and as you near the end of the book, strong feelings collide, and the truth finally emerges. These characters stayed in my subconscious as I had a dream about them! I recommend this one if you like character-driven fiction and strong writing.
3 months ago
Engaging tale of family secrets and the hardships endured by immigrant families as they straddle the dual cultures of their former lives with their new, nascent lives. Into this brew, arrive daughters, one born into the previous culture and then sent abroad, feeling expendable, and one born later, feeling invisible. Yet each sister believes the other is more cherished for her unique position in another cultural mix. For the struggling parents, there is never enough time or language dexterity to explain the truth or pain of their feelings. Author Jean Kwok layers on a mystery to this particular tale and although the outcome seems clear, the specifics are not. This is a beguiling tale, not to be forgotten. I received my copy from the publisher through edelweiss.
3 months ago
I found Searching for Sylvie Lee an enthralling, thought-provoking and emotional read. This book combines gorgeous, literary prose with a powerfully suspenseful plot. As the characters navigate multiple languages and cultures, and the web of relationships that holds them together grows more complex, the novel's insights about family, culture, gender and love rise to the surface, surprising and delighting the reader.
The book begins as Amy discovers that something has gone terribly wrong with her gorgeous, successful older sister Sylvie and embarks on a journey to try and piece together the mystery. As Amy traces Sylvie's footsteps across the world to the Netherlands, the country in which her sister was raised for the first few years of her life, she begins to uncover secrets and deceptions with far-reaching consequences for herself and her family, as well as discovering new potential and new abilities of her own.
I particularly loved the delicate and nuanced depiction of the relationships between the two sisters, Sylvie and Amy, their mother, and their aunt and the questions this depiction raised for me about the faces we show to family and the parts of ourselves that we choose to -- or try to -- keep hidden from those we love.
This is a novel which captures an entire world within its pages. It was an absolute joy to read!
4 months ago
Guys, I’m tearing up just writing this. It’s one of those books that will make you cry, but IT’S WORTH THE READ!
Add this to your summer TBR list NOW. I mean right now. Like stop reading this and go preorder it. I’ll wait.
Done? Okay- BELIEVE the hype once again because it’s true. Searching for Sylvie Lee will be one of the best books of the summer/year.
The story will grab you within the first couple of pages and you won’t want to stop reading.
Now to the characters, can I just hug everyone?! Well except one person… that person deserves a slap.
Back to the rest of the characters, I knew from the start that each character had secrets and a turbulent past, but how they all weaved together blew my mind.
Jean Kwok’s other works have been on my TBR list FOREVER and now they are close to the top. When a mysterious situation is presented, the reader isn’t left in the dark waiting for an explanation.
The chapters aren’t super short, but they aren’t terribly long either. They also end with you always always wanting more. I mean I binged read the last 20 chapters in pretty much one sitting.
Going back to the characters, you know there’s an underlying problem/back story to them all that makes you want to hug them! Seriously, you feel for everyone of them- even ones that make you angry.
There was a part where I was kinda grossed out, but that feeling was COMPLETELY erased when I kept reading and it all came together.
I’m always partial to an Asian immigrant story. Mainly because I recognize mentalities and the customs, but this one really resonated with me.
I also got Everything I Never Told You, Miracle Creek and The Joy Luck Club vibes!
4 months ago
This is a very compelling book; a fascinating blend of mystery, family dynamics, and culture. The story resolves around an extended family of Chinese immigrants living in the United States and The Netherlands, and it was fascinating to read how the families were accepted and not accepted in their new countries. I really enjoyed the Chinese wisdom and expressions that appeared throughout the book, which were insightful, educational and entertaining—it opened up a whole new world to me. This story was a taut mystery as we find out what happened to Sylvie Lee, and also a poignant family saga.
4 months ago
Searching for Sylvie Lee - Jean Kwok. Sylvie Lee has the "perfect" life, the ideal husband, her ideal job but is she living the the perfect lie? Sylvie returns to the Netherlands to visit ailing grandmother, but when her cousin, Lukas Tan calls to tell Sylvie's family she is missing, Sylvie's sister, Amy decides to go to the Netherlands to find her sister. Not only is it not easy for Amy to actually to get on a plane, Amy starts to find unanswered questions, why is Sylvie's husband not living in their apartment? Why did Sylvie quit her job? More questions arise when Amy gets to the Netherlands, where more family secrets seems to be arise. An amazing read of Chinese culture and family. #sylvieismissing Thanks to William Morrow and Goodreads for an advanced reader copy.
4 months ago
"In love and in life, we never know when we are telling ourselves stories. We are the ultimate unreliable narrators."
This was the first book I completed off my summer reading list and what a way to kick things off! "Searching for Sylvie Lee" is a suspenseful family drama that you won't want to put down. Sylvie Lee is a driven woman who seems like she has it all - the perfect job, the perfect marriage, the perfect life - but when she goes to the Netherlands to visit her dying grandmother, she ends up missing and her younger sister, Amy, is determined to figure out why. The daughters of Chinese-American immigrants, Sylvie spent the first decade of her life living in the Netherlands with her grandmother and cousins, years that Amy knows little about. Told through Sylvie and Amy's alternating perspectives, the novel slowly unravels the truth behind both Sylvie's and the family's secrets.
I loved learning more about the Chinese and Dutch cultures while reading. Jean Kwok has her characters speak in the colloquialisms and slang that members of both cultures would use, which I found really entertaining, and her descriptions of the different cultures and customs were vivid and colorful making the worlds come alive. A combination of mystery and romance and an exploration of identity and the immigrant experience, "Searching for Sylvie Lee" is the beach read you won't want to put down!
I received this book from William Morrow through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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