Searching for Sylvie Lee

by Jean Kwok


Sylvie and her sister Amy have a complicated relationship. Born to immigrant parents, Mama & Papa Lee were struggling to make ends meet with one child. With the imminent birth of Amy, their only option is to send Sylvie off to the Netherlands to live with Mama’s wealthy cousin Helena. Mama knows that her own mother, living with Helena and Willem and raising their son Lukas, will raise Sylvie right. It’s only for a short while, until they are more capable of bringing Sylvie home.

Eventually Sylvie does come home, but she never stops feeling as though she wasn’t wanted. Certainly not by her own parents who sent her away, but also by Helena who never made her feel welcome in their home. Only grandmother wanted her. Grandmother who taught her the language of the homeland and doted on her. Even now, married and successful, Sylvie battles to fit in and feel comfortable. When Grandmother’s health is declining, Sylvie doesn’t think twice about packing up and going back to spend what time Grandmother has left with her. But things don’t exactly go as planned, and after Grandmother dies, Sylvie disappears. It is up to Amy to take on the search for Sylvie. 

Searching for Sylvie Lee is a story about families and secrets. Secrets that can destroy us. Jealousy and anger that have been buried for far too long. Family ties that bind and choke sometimes. The story is told from multiple viewpoints, and different timelines. Each character has their own piece of the puzzle that all comes together in the end. It is a lovely story, very sad at times, but also beautiful in the way that tragedy can bring people together and make them whole. I would highly recommend this book.

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