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Searching for Sylvie Lee

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  22,168 ratings  ·  2,480 reviews
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
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by William Morrow
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Rachel The author made each language have a distinct voice in the book and that was amazing. When characters were speaking in Chinese, you knew because the m…moreThe author made each language have a distinct voice in the book and that was amazing. When characters were speaking in Chinese, you knew because the metaphors and specific phrases were literally translated instead of giving an English equivalent. In Dutch it was the same but I don't know if someone would pick it up if you don't know Dutch. For example, when characters are speaking Dutch, they talk about people being "long" not "tall" and other idioms were used like when they said an angel was peeing on their tongue: that's a direct translation of the Dutch idiom. So there are times when Sylvie is narrating when you can tell she's switching between all three languages based on how the author has written the dialogue. Really fascinating and I've never seen an author do it this well. (less)
April I was wondering if the awkward dialogue was deliberate as they were either supposed to be speaking in a non-native language or in Dutch (and I know no…moreI was wondering if the awkward dialogue was deliberate as they were either supposed to be speaking in a non-native language or in Dutch (and I know nothing of the Dutch language, so I was willing to assume that perhaps their phrasing sounds odd to an English speaker's ear).
Perhaps I'm giving the author too much credit.(less)

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Jean Kwok
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I'm so thankful for your interest in SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE, which was an instant NYT bestseller and chosen as The Today Show Book Club Pick! Check out the recent NYT article (, plus there's an excerpt ( and a book club guide with discussion questions and recipes ( Thank you all so much for taking the time to read and rate. I hope very much that you like it and I am so grateful to you for being my readers. :) ...more
Diane S ☔
Jun 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: lor-2019
It is so hard to figure out why a book will resonate so greatly with some, and not others. This book is a case in point, it has garnered some terrific reviews, but there were some plot points that were for me, not realistic. A young Chinese woman disappears after returning to the Netherlands, when the grandmother that helped raise her, was dying. Although her parents lived in the United States, Sylvie herself lived in the Netherlands for her first nine years. Her younger sister, Amy, who thinks ...more
Nilufer Ozmekik
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-m-intrigued
Four full, surprising , heartbreaking ,mysterious ,twisty, tearful stars!

A real well written novel questions so many important issues from immigrant problems to partly racism, discrimination, from devoted love-hate sisterhood relationships to childhood crush, from inequality between men and women at work places to a husband’s betrayal and abuse!!!

It’s a real gripping story, told by two sisters and mother!

As soon as we read mother’s part, we realize that their own daughter’s have no idea about
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok is a 2019 William Morrow publication.

A poignant family saga highlighting cultural, gender, and generational divides.

About Sylvie:

Sylvie is a thirty-three-year old woman of Chinese descent, who up until she was nine years old, lived in the Netherlands with her extended family- which included her maternal grandmother, her mother’s cousin, Helena, her husband, Willem Tan, and their son, Lukas. She is the daughter of ‘Ma and Pa’, the sister of Amy, the wife of
Larry H
Oct 09, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

While its title suggests this book is a mystery, and certainly there is a mystery component, Jean Kwok's Searching for Sylvie Lee is also a study of family dynamics and an exploration of how secrets can destroy relationships.

Sylvie Lee is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. When she was very young, her parents were too poor to raise her in America, so they allowed her to be raised by cousins and her maternal grandmother in the Netherlands. Life wasn't easy there for Sylvie—an awkwa
Diane Yannick
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
I was a big fan of Girl in Translation so I jumped right on this new novel by Jean Kwok. The first half (maybe even 2/3) was interesting and held forth much promise. Then something terrible happened. All I can figure is that a cheesy soap opera writer stole her manuscript and finished it. Even the language was gussied up and over the top. But worse yet was the plotting. No spoilers so I’ll just say that there were far too many coincidences and the “mystery” aspect of it was lame.
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’m between 3.5 and 4 stars on this one so I’ll round up.

This was a compelling story about a Chinese immigrant family and the struggles they go through to create a life for themselves in a new country where, despite their best efforts, they never truly feel that they belong. Sylvie Lee is the beautiful and successful older daughter who was sent off to live with her grandmother and her cousin’s family in the Netherlands when she was only a few months old -- despite being reunited with her parent
Jennifer Blankfein
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved Searching for Sylvie Lee, the engrossing new fiction novel by Jean Kwok, the author of Girl in Translation. Not only is is written with great description of the Netherlands, NY and Venice, but the build up to an unsolved mystery is addictive and compelling. At the end of many of the chapters I had to catch my breath!

A perfect combination of literary fiction and suspense, in Searching for Sylvie Lee, Jean Kwok lets us inside the minds of Chinese immigrant sisters Sylvie, Amy a
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jean delivers us a poignant, compelling story, the whole journey throughout the book will give you goosebumps and in these hot days this is a perfect read!
Searching For Sylvie Lee is really an emotional and thought-provoking novel merged with such mindful topics like immigration, family mysteries, and dark sides of the characters!
The characters in the book have a very professional structure build in a perfect way by Kwok and that was very intriguing to read, Sylvie is a very clever girl, popula
Anne Bogel
Jun 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
This much-anticipated novel from the author of Girl in Translation is part suspenseful mystery, part family drama, and inspired by a real-life tragedy in Kwok’s past.

The story begins when her family discovers Sylvie—the beautiful, confident golden child of the family—visits the Netherlands to see her dying grandmother, and then falls off the radar. As her family searches for her, we learn about their complicated past and Sylvie’s own upbringing as the daughter of Chinese immigrants, first in Ne
Jessica Woodbury
Feb 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, authors-of-color
I love a domestic drama and I love a multi-perspective one even more. Until the last third or so this was very much right in my wheelhouse. I suspect the things that dropped it down a star for me may not matter that much to other readers. (Or maybe they'll matter even more! Who's to say?)

I particularly enjoy a domestic drama that takes me to a new place with interesting characters. This book definitely delivered. The Lee family is more complicated than you'd expect. While in some ways they are
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book started out so promising, a beautifully written immigrant story playing out across two different continents with elements of a mystery/thriller woven in. Sadly, the shifting narratives and timelines grew tedious after awhile, and the “big reveal” felt like a cheap, and super predictable cop out. Once my suspicions about what happened to Sylvie were sadly confirmed correct, it was a real struggle to finish this book.

Sigh. Yet another promising novel that turned out to be a huge disappo
may ❀
im in between a 3.5 and 4 right now and i can't really explain why.

- this book did a lot of things and it did them well. to start, there's this very strong theme of family and heritage and immigration
- but that's just the beginning cause this book is loaded with secrets, betrayals, and tragedies that revolve around one family
- *give us the family dramaaaaaa*
- i LOVE reading stories that take place in unique settings & this takes place (mainly) in holland. the setting is described vividly and
Tucker  (TuckerTheReader)
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tucker by: William Morrow

Many thanks to William Morrow for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one's own. -Willa Cather

Searching For Sylvie Lee is more of a family drama than a thriller. While it did have its unsettling scenes, I felt that this novel went deeper into family and siblings than the mystery itself. Though it was, in my opinion, marketed incorrectly, it was still enjoyable.

Sylvie - Sylvie Lee is the p
Apr 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: librarything
Sylvie Lee is a successful, beautiful woman. Her younger sister, Amy, idolizes her. When news reaches them that their grandmother is dying in the Netherlands, Sylvie flies there to be with her. Sylvie grew up in the Netherlands. Her parents were too poor to take care of her when she was born and sent her to live with her grandmother and the Tan family. Sylvie didn’t return to the US and her parents until she was 9 years old. But now Sylvie has returned to the place she thinks of as home. But Amy ...more
A book that follows Amy Lee, a young Chinese woman who searches for her older sister Sylvie, who disappeared after returning to the Netherlands to care for the grandmother who raised for. I liked how Searching for Sylvie Lee captures the cost of immigration. The sections about what Sylvie’s parents, especially her mother, sacrificed and how that affected their relationship with Sylvie felt heart wrenching and true. The emotions of grief, longing, and mystery all resonated too, perhaps because Je ...more
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
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 gran
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 / 5 rounded up!

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok was such a haunting and emotional read, and a book that I will be recommending to a lot of people.

What it's about: The daughters of Chinese immigrants, Amy and her older sister Sylvie couldn't be more different. Sylvie has always been the brilliant and beautiful one who can do anything, while Amy feels like a shadow with her stutter and less glamorous life with their parents. It doesn't help that Sylvie spent most of her childhood wi
Leslie Ray
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
As I read this book, the quote by Sir Walter Scott, "Oh! What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive", was all that kept coming to mind. Even though Sir Walter Scott had nothing to do with this story, the deceptions that come to light and their consequences, brought this famous quote to mind for me over and over.
Sylvie and Amy are sisters, separated by their parents in which Sylvie, the older sister is raised in the Netherlands, by relatives, while Amy grew up in New York City
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery-suspense
Kudos to Jenna Bush Hager for picking another winner! This book is beautifully written, I felt I knew each character well, there was definitely a connection. The setting is the Netherlands, and Jean Kwok’s description of the environment and culture gave me the experience of being there. The author does an excellent job of making you aware of some of the many problems immigrants face, I will think on this in the future! There are many twists and turns that kept me guessing, and kept me reading. I ...more
Carol (Bookaria)
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This novel is part mystery, part family drama and revolves around the disappearance of Sylvie Lee, a young and successful attorney who flies back to the Netherlands to visit her dying grandmother. After a few days abroad, Sylvie's whereabouts are unknown which sends her sister on a search for her. 

The book explores family relationships, the immigration experience, identity, and is narrated from different points of view. Sylvie's parents are Chinese immigrants and the the fact that she grew up be
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE is a beautifully written novel that left me thinking of the problems facing immigrants or anyone who is trying to fit in. Told by two sisters and their mother, this book is about a heart breaking tragedy which occurs when family secrets are revealed. I highly recommend this book!
Adding another one to the dnf file. No connections being made at all.
Jenna Hager
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The gripping story begins when Sylvie Lee goes missing on a trip to visit her extended family in the Netherlands and her sister, Amy, must step up to lead the search. Any of us can imagine if our sister or our best friend went missing. Amy is searching for her sister and the sisterhood is, I think, the most beautiful part of it.

Mysteries are my guilty pleasures. I always think I'm kind of good at solving what's happened early on in the book. It is a fast-paced book for sure. I couldn't help but
Jenna Friebel
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jean Kwok has created another wonderful novel. Family saga, culture, secrets, suspense... and ultimately, heartbreaking.
Beth Farley
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
For me, this was over the top melodramatic and soap-opera-ish.
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jean Kwok does it again with Searching for Sylvie Lee. This captivating novel shares the story of a family dealing with unraveling a mystery. Sisters Sylvie and Amy have many differences but share an abiding love. When Sylvie goes missing in the Netherlands, it’s her sister who will do anything to find her.

Kwok navigates cultures and narrative perspectives deftly in this novel. There’s unique balance in this book between suspense and story. I highly recommend adding this book to your TBR list fo
Jul 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2019
What an awkward book. Wildly inconsistent at parts, this novel recalls an ill-developed middle school story made painfully long. The “shocking” reveals feel ripped straight from “Everything I Never Told You” with a dash of “Flowers in the Attic.” The characters are erratic and unfleshed, wholly unbelievable page after page. The inclusion of Dutch and Chinese translations in the writing are jarring and do no favors to the storyline. When masterfully done (see: Amy Tan), it’s a pleasure, but when ...more
Louise Wilson
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Amy is Sylvie Lee's sister and she is trying to find out what had happened to her. Sylvie had been raised by her grandmother. After nine years she returns to live with her parents and sister, Amy. Amy goes missing after spending time in Europe. Amy then goes in search of her sister ut she won't like some of the things she discovers.

This story help a lot of interesting elements for me. I liked learning ore about the Dutch and Chinese cultures. It was interesting to read whether families were acce
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Burbank READS: Jean Kwok interview 1 10 May 20, 2020 09:44AM  
Burbank READS: Part 3 6 17 May 18, 2020 10:27AM  
Burbank READS: Part 2 11 16 May 16, 2020 12:04PM  
Burbank READS: Part 1 1 14 May 05, 2020 11:51AM  
Between the Lines: Discussion Question 5 1 9 Nov 14, 2019 11:43AM  
Between the Lines: Discussion Question 4 1 1 Nov 14, 2019 11:41AM  

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Jean Kwok is the New York Times and international bestselling, award-winning author of SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE, GIRL IN TRANSLATION and MAMBO IN CHINATOWN. Her work has been published in twenty countries and taught in universities, colleges, and high schools across the world. An instant New York Times bestseller, SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE was selected by Jenna Bush Hager for the Today Show Book Cl ...more

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