Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by William Morrow
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.
I really enjoyed Kwok’s earlier novel, Girl in Translation, so I was eager to read this. Unfortunately, though, this one failed to live up to expectations.
We follow Amy as she travels from New York to the Netherlands to search for her missing sister, and her narrative is interspersed with a few chapters narrated by Amy’s mother (Ma) and a few from Sylvie before she went missing.
The characters sadly failed to engage me and there were lots of sayings and proverbs which might have added authenticity but just became quite irritating. The narration often felt weird and stilted, which was partly deliberate to reflect the different languages the characters were speaking in, but was still quite annoying and made the book harder to read.
There was also a weird love square between Sylvie, her cello teacher, Sylvie’s cousin and a Dutch girl, which felt very unconvincing.
There was a good twist at the end that helped redeem the novel somewhat, but ultimately I didn’t enjoy this as much as I had hoped to.
My rating: 6 out of 10