Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Searching for Sylvie Lee is a heartbreaking mystery which not only touches on racial stereotyping and immigration, but has incredible drama, secrets and misunderstandings which tear an extended family apart.

When an Asian couple immigrate to New York City, they have high hopes of all their dreams coming true. They believe this country to be the greatest place to raise a family, But as they get settled, they discover they are pregnant. Unable to care for a baby and try and work, they send their daughter Sylvie to a cousin’s house in The Netherlands where their grandma is taking care of another of the cousins. They believe they will be able to send for her when they get settled.

But seven years later, when they have a second child, Amy, Sylvie is still in The Netherlands. They now decide it is time for Sylvie to come to America and help with their new child. Sylvie is then sent to New York, leaving the only home she has really ever known. But she seems to adapt to the change easily, taking care of her sister Amy and excelling at whatever she does. Her young sister Amy not only looks up to Sylvie, but aspires to be just like her, always feeling as if she has fallen short of what Sylvie has accomplished. But both sisters adore each other.

When the family gets a call from their family in The Netherlands telling them their grandmother is near death, they decide it should be Sylvie who goes to be with her. They had the closest bond and felt she would want to be with her. Sylvie, married with an incredible job departs to be with her grandmother. But after her grandmother’s death, Sylvie disappears. At first they feel she just needed time to process the passing, but as time elapses, Amy realizes something is terribly wrong.

It is decided that Amy will travel to The Netherlands to help search for her sister. Not only is this totally out of Amy’s comfort zone, but Amy realizes this could be the opportunity to help her sister as she has helped her for all these years. As Amy traces Sylvie’s steps during her time in The Netherlands and her interactions with her cousins, she realizes Sylvie had many secrets. Although always seeming perfect on the outside, she was hiding feelings of extreme insecurity, sadness and regret. The fight begins as to how far the family should go to find Sylvie, worrying about how it would look to people if perhaps they find something, because everybody should have perfect lives, at least on the outside. Where IS Sylvie?

This moving story which opens up a floodgate of family secrets is both compelling and tragic. Not only is this family searching for Sylvie who is lost in so many ways, but they are searching for their own souls hoping to find their own way back to each other before it is too late.

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