Sylvie Lee is missing. She is Amy’s bright, beautiful and highly successful older sister who returned to Holland because their grandmother was gravely ill. See, Sylvie, along with her grandmother, was sent to live with her aunt and uncle, Helena & Willhem Tan, when she was a baby and rejoined her family in New York when she was nine and Amy was two. Her grandmother subsequently died and Sylvie was expected back home a week ago but no one seems to know where she is. Amy departs for Holland to try and find her, learning so much along the way to make her question whether she truly ever knew the sister she reveres.
This is a multigenerational story that is about so much more than locating a missing person, which is what I thought this would be. We’re provided three narratives: Amy, the younger sister; Sylvie Lee; and, Ma, their mother. There are a host of secondary characters who are part of this frame and instrumental in shaping all three women. The most impactful aspect of the story is the ever evolving identity of Sylvie Lee. She’s driven by a number of forces that’s made her excel in everything she’s ventured and things appear to have shifted. Those shifts provide textured layers to what I had first believed to be a fairly two-dimensional story.
My book club selected this for discussion and after our meeting, I raised my rating. There are deep themes that I hadn’t considered, giving the story so many additional angles to consider. We had a robust discussion about the Dutch and Asian cultures, racism, immigration, abandonment and displaced affections among others. Even the title has a more nuanced meaning. While I found the transitions between narratives often choppy and awkward, they didn’t lessen the power of the characterizations and messages. I’m glad three narrators were used for the audio version because they delivered their characters’ voices in the cultural aspects of where they were most formed. I have to believe it was deliberate as it was effective. This is a complicated story with really interesting, culturally diverse and complex characters.
- Release Date: June 4, 2019
- Narrators: Angela Lin, Samantha Quan & Caroline McLaughlin
- Audio Length: 11 hours, 19 minutes
- Publisher: HarperAudio