... a moving tale that, while billed as a mystery, transcends the genre ... There is so much in this novel that mirrors modern life as Kwok pulls us into the lives of people who encounter prejudice and ignorance as they struggle to assimilate ... Kwok cracks open Sylvie’s heart, spilling its sorrowful contents for all the world to see. This is a beautifully written story in which the author evokes the hard reality of being an immigrant and a woman in today’s world.
Reading Kwok’s...third novel is like watching an artist create a pencil drawing; she lays down the initial outline, then builds on it with shading and nuance until everything comes together at the stunning end. Her sharp and surprising language transports readers across the globe on a breathless and emotionally complex journey. Excellent from every angle, this is a can’t-miss novel for lovers of poignant and propulsive fiction.
...engrossing ... The alternating structure allows readers to witness how the Lee sisters frequently saw the best in each other but thought the worst of themselves ... One might assume that resentments would exist between these sisters, but Kwok renders their relationship with genuine tenderness, gently revealing their human fallibility ... The beauty and tragedy of Searching for Sylvie Lee is in how much these sisters love each other because of — or in spite of — their upbringing. Another notable strength of the novel is how deeply it delves into the mindset of immigrants who never quite belong anywhere they live ... Kwok’s novel is at its best and most engaging when exploring the Lee sisters’ relationships with themselves and each other, the effects of immigration on entire generations of families, and the weight that the adult children of immigrants often feel ... While the thriller aspects of Searching for Sylvie Lee are somewhat uneven, readers interested in the family drama are sure to be drawn in by Kwok’s undeniable gift for creating memorable, intimate portraits of characters.
Though the novel is rife with romantic entanglements and revelations that wouldn’t be amiss in a soap opera, its emotional core is the bond between the Lee sisters, one of mutual devotion and a tinge of envy ... the book is a meditation not just on racism, but on (not) belonging ...A frank look at the complexities of family, race and culture.
Told with gorgeous prose, the strongest aspect of Kwok’s storytelling is the revelation of how differently these characters see themselves versus how they are seen by the world ... Kwon wraps up the mystery of Sylvie’s disappearance at the end, but the discovery of how these characters change throughout the novel may be the more important journey.
... intriguing and gripping ... Kwok’s tightly woven novel is an emotional and thrilling page-turner that also provides insight into her Asian culture. A major change of pace for Kwok; readers who enjoyed the work of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl should appreciate.
Kwok is unafraid to fully translate her characters’ flowery Chinese and contractionless Dutch, which gives the book an unexpected Pearl S. Buck-style flavor. There’s even a cache of valuable jewels passed from mother to daughter that everyone thinks everyone else wants to get their hands on ... a book that is busy, compelling and not a little wild. When you think of it, it is very much like Sylvie herself.
The story is at its best when it delineates the struggles of second-generation Chinese immigrants in the two countries, and at its weakest when it falls into swooning romance clichés. Because most readers will solve the mysteries before Amy does, this one will satisfy those interested in the immigrant experience more than those looking for a complex plot to puzzle over.