Julie's Reviews > Searching for Sylvie Lee

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
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bookshelves: 2019, william-morrow-impusle, family, e-book, cultural, drama, mystery-shelf, edelweiss-review

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 Jim. She’s vibrant, focused, brilliant and highly successful… And… she’s missing.

Sylvie initially flew to Holland to care for her ailing grandmother. After her grandmother passes away, it was presumed Sylvie had returned to New York, but no one has seen her. Amy is alerted by Lukas that Sylvie has vanished, which sets off alarm bells in Amy’s mind. After checking the usual places, it becomes clear Sylvie never left the Netherlands. So, Amy travels to Holland to search for her, encountering her extended relatives for the first time.

She is immediately struck by their apathy towards Sylvie’s absence, the hostility she senses from Helena, and the mysterious behavior Sylvie exhibited before she disappeared. But her cousin’s blasé attitude is nothing compared to their demand that Amy not seek outside help- such as from the police. As Amy works to uncover the truth about her sister, she discovers a part of Sylvie she never knew existed.

The story is a very taut, suspenseful mystery, but not in the traditional sense. Where is Sylvie? Did she take off deliberately? Why would she do something so out of character?

While this mystery unfolds, at the core of the story is a very complex family drama. ‘Ma’ immigrated to the US, but the adjustment was very hard, leading her to take the Tans up on their kind offer to have Sylvie come live with them. She never intended for Sylvie to stay so long and had no idea how difficult things became for her before she returned home to New York to live with parents again.

Amy also has no idea what Sylvie’s life was like in the nine years she spent in Holland. She loves her sister dearly, but is also a little jealous of her, too. Could Sylvie be a bit envious of Amy, as well?

Besides the exploration of sisterly bonds, the story also addresses the hardships immigrants endure, the racism the family encountered, both in Holland and in New York. These events shaped them as a family unit and as individuals.

Amy’s persistent search for answers unveils layers of sorrow, secrets, resentments, and a host of bitter regrets.

The novel is fast paced, but everything remains shrouded in mystery until the very end, which tempted me to start over and read it again so I could view it from with an insider’s advantage.

The mysteries and revelations emerge slowly, but the atmosphere becomes increasingly puzzling and alarming. Once the mystery is resolved, one is left to reflect upon the characters, their motives, limitations, desires, fears, and the perception of oneself that others may view differently.

While this book is categorized as a mystery, I strongly urge those familiar with the genre not to expect anything like a criminal investigation here. This is the desperate search for a missing person without the help of any official agencies. But, rest assured, the mystery of Sylvie Lee’s disappearance deepens as the story progresses, leaving one feeling on edge with ever growing sense of urgency.

However, for me, the cultural struggles of immigrating to another country, and the absolute poison of racism humming beneath the surface, along with the complex family dynamics, is what I’ll remember most about the journey.

It’s a heart wrenching tale with a valuable lesson tucked inside these pages, one that should give us all something to contemplate. Empathy is evidently a rare strait and one we should all try harder to develop. You never really know what someone is going through until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes…
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Reading Progress

March 24, 2019 – Shelved
March 24, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
June 13, 2019 – Started Reading
September 30, 2019 – Shelved as: 2019
September 30, 2019 – Shelved as: william-morrow-impusle
September 30, 2019 – Shelved as: family
September 30, 2019 – Shelved as: e-book
September 30, 2019 – Shelved as: cultural
September 30, 2019 – Shelved as: drama
September 30, 2019 – Shelved as: mystery-shelf
September 30, 2019 – Shelved as: edelweiss-review
September 30, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 50 (50 new)

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message 1: by JanB (new)

JanB I have this on my list and I look forward to your thoughts. I hope you're loving it!


Chava I just finished it. I'm curious to read your review. It was a little hard for me to get through, but since I borrowed it from the library and it's due back today, I powered through it yesterday.


Julie JanB wrote: "I have this on my list and I look forward to your thoughts. I hope you're loving it!"

I'm sorry- I just now found your comment, Jan! It's a hard book to read, but I respected the themes explored in the novel. 😊


Julie Chava wrote: "I just finished it. I'm curious to read your review. It was a little hard for me to get through, but since I borrowed it from the library and it's due back today, I powered through it yesterday."

This is a difficult story to read. I can understand how you might have struggled with it- especially while having to force it. I apologize for the late response- I just now saw your comment! 😊


message 5: by Tina (new)

Tina Sounds like this one was a bit emotional. A great review and so glad you enjoyed it! 💓


Julie Tina wrote: "Sounds like this one was a bit emotional. A great review and so glad you enjoyed it! 💓"

Thank you, Tina!! Yes, tissues will be needed. 💖


message 7: by KAS (new)

KAS Lovely, thoughtful review, dear Julie ;) Sounds like a fascinating read!! 😘❤️


Julie KAS wrote: "Lovely, thoughtful review, dear Julie ;) Sounds like a fascinating read!! 😘❤️"

Thank you very much, dear KAS!! 💖😊💖


Mary Beth *Traveling Sister* Terrific review, Julie! 💕


Julie Mary Beth *Traveling Sister* wrote: "Terrific review, Julie! 💕"

Thank you very much, Mary Beth!! 💖


message 11: by Diane (new)

Diane Wallace Terrific review, Julie ;)


message 12: by Sandra (new)

Sandra Wonderful review Julie! :)


Julie Diane wrote: "Terrific review, Julie ;)"

Thank you so much, Diane!! 💖


Julie Sandra wrote: "Wonderful review Julie! :)"

Thank you very much, Sandra!! 💖


message 15: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen Fantastic review Julie! On my list!


Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill Great review once again Julie!!! 😊


message 17: by Ceecee (new)

Ceecee Fantastic review Julie 🤗


message 18: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Great review, Julie!


Holly R W In reading your review, I was able to re-experience the book with all of its nuances and complexities. Thanks!


message 20: by Paromjit (new)

Paromjit Marvellous review, dear Julie xx


message 21: by Maureen (new)

Maureen Fantastic review Julie 💕🤗


message 22: by Meredith (new) - added it

Meredith Fabulous review, Julie!


message 23: by Angela M (new) - added it

Angela M Wonderful review, Julie. On my list.


Julie Karen wrote: "Fantastic review Julie! On my list!"

Thank you, Karen!! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one! 💖


Julie Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill wrote: "Great review once again Julie!!! 😊"

Thank very much, Kim!! 💖


Julie Ceecee wrote: "Fantastic review Julie 🤗"

Thank you, Ceecee!! 💖


Julie Carolyn wrote: "Great review, Julie!"

Thank you very much, Carolyn!! 💖


Julie Holly R W wrote: "In reading your review, I was able to re-experience the book with all of its nuances and complexities. Thanks!"

Thank you, Holly!! It is a very unique book, very thought provoking, as well. 💖


Julie Paromjit wrote: "Marvellous review, dear Julie xx"

Thank you, Paromjit!! 💖


Julie Maureen wrote: "Fantastic review Julie 💕🤗"

Thank you very much, Maureen!! 💖


Julie Meredith wrote: "Fabulous review, Julie!"

Thank you, dear Meredith!! 💖


Julie Angela M wrote: "Wonderful review, Julie. On my list."

Thank you, Angela!! Looking forward to your thoughts on this one! 💖


message 33: by Nicola (new)

Nicola Brilliant review Julie! This sounds like just the type of story I enjoy! ❤️


message 34: by Michelle (new) - added it

Michelle I'm glad to see you loved this, Julie! This book was a DNF for me, but that's okay! Great review!


message 35: by Mischenko (new)

Mischenko Beautiful review, Julie! 💜


message 36: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Ansbro A wonderfully empathetic review, Julie! : )


Julie Nicola wrote: "Brilliant review Julie! This sounds like just the type of story I enjoy! ❤️"

Thank you, Nicola!! It is melancholy, but also a very thoughtful story. 💖


Julie Kevin wrote: "A wonderfully empathetic review, Julie! : )"

Thank so much, Kevin! 😊😊


Julie Mischenko wrote: "Beautiful review, Julie! 💜"

Thank very much, dear Mischenko!! 💖


Julie Michelle wrote: "I'm glad to see you loved this, Julie! This book was a DNF for me, but that's okay! Great review!"

Thank you, dear Michelle!! Not every book is a good fit. It happens. 💖


message 41: by Kaceey (new)

Kaceey Wonderful review Julie!🤗💖


Julie Kaceey wrote: "Wonderful review Julie!🤗💖"

Thank you very much, Kaceey!! 💖


message 43: by PorshaJo (new)

PorshaJo Great review Julie! Glad you liked this one.


Julie PorshaJo wrote: "Great review Julie! Glad you liked this one."

Thank you, PorshaJo!! 💖


message 45: by Libby (new) - added it

Libby A most excellent review, Julie! Sounds like a pretty intense character study as well as suspense. I'll add this one.


Julie Libby wrote: "A most excellent review, Julie! Sounds like a pretty intense character study as well as suspense. I'll add this one."

Thank you, Libby!! It is a revealing character study within a story which sheds light on the immigrant experience. It's poignant, but eye-opening, as well. 💖


message 47: by Kat (new)

Kat Valentine Fantabulous review Julie!!👍💖😉💋


Julie Kat wrote: "Fantabulous review Julie!!👍💖😉💋"

Thank you so much, Kat!! 😊💖😊


message 49: by Paula (new)

Paula Kalin Great review, Julie!


Julie Paula wrote: "Great review, Julie!"

Thank you very much, Paula!! 💖


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