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, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother—and then vanishes.

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. Terrified yet determined, Amy retraces her sister’s movements, flying to the last place Sylvie was seen. But instead of simple answers, she discovers something much more valuable: the truth. Sylvie, the golden girl, kept painful secrets . . . secrets that will reveal more about Amy’s complicated family—and herself—than she ever could have imagined.

A deeply moving story of family, secrets, identity, and longing, Searching for Sylvie Lee is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive portrait of an immigrant family. It is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone—especially those we love.

Early Praise

Already one of 2019's MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS according to: Marie Claire, Publishers Weekly, Good Housekeeping, Huffington Post, Book Riot, Nylon, BookBub, Crime Reads, She Reads, Society19, The Everygirl, and more

Already selected by Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, PopSugar, Publishers Weekly and BookBub as a BEST BOOK

Foreign rights already sold to The Netherlands and Russia

“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."

"I was only about two-thirds of the way through Jean Kwok's Searching For Sylvie Lee when I began telling everyone I know: 'I've found this book, you need to read it.'... It's a thriller, and it's an immigrant story, and it's also a romance. I love a lot of books, but none quite like this one.... This is a story like no other."
Marie Claire, The Best Women's Fiction of 2019

"Stunning novel... Kwok tells this story of an immigrant family with lucidity and compassion, there is sympathy for difficult choices made, but nothing is sentimentalized. Instead, this is a profoundly moving portrayal of the complicated identities that exist even within a single family, and it offers a graceful portrait of the sacrifices we make for love, and the ways in which our choices can’t help but forever affect those around us."
Nylon Magazine

"Like all most compelling mysteries, Jean Kwok's SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE has a powerful emotional drama at its heart. A twisting tale of love, loss and dark family secrets."
—Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water

“SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE is riveting.  A dazzling, talented woman disappears, leading her younger sister to search the Netherlands—and the past—for the truth. This novel is part mystery, part saga of an immigrant family.  It is both gripping and emotionally resonant on every page—a remarkable achievement.”
—Scott Turow, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Testimony

"SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE is part mystery, part emotional drama, and the book you need in your beach bag this summer." 

"A compelling story of how the unsaid can powerfully shape families and lives. Sharply observed, with a plot as unpredictable as its moody Dutch landscape, Kwok's novel is a powerful meditation on loss, identity and belonging." 
—Shelf Awareness

"Kwok’s latest centers on an insecure young woman’s search for her older sister, Sylvie, who’s gone missing. My curiosity piqued, I started to read. No surprise, the interpersonal relationships keep the pages turning." 
—Publishers Weekly, Best Books of Summer 2019

"A favorite of Paula Hawkins, this literary novel will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions this summer. A must-read for fans of Celeste Ng."
—She Reads

"[The novel's] emotional core is the bond between the Lee sisters, one of mutual devotion and a tinge of envy.... Kwok (Mambo in Chinatown, 2014, etc.), who lives in the Netherlands, is eloquent on the clumsy, overt racism Chinese people face there.... But the book is a meditation not just on racism, but on (not) belonging. 'When you were different,' Sylvie thinks, 'who knew if it was because of a lack of social graces or the language barrier or your skin color?' A frank look at the complexities of family, race and culture."

"Dazzling. A heartbreaking, tumultuous ride of a novel that upends our expectations—about family loyalty, cultural identity and the very nature of love itself—at every twist and turn. Kwok is a wise and knowing story-teller who keeps us under her spell until the very last page."
—Julie Otsuka, New York Times bestselling author of When the Emperor Was Divine and The Buddha in the Attic, a National Book Award Finalist

“SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE had me in its grip from the very first page and didn't set me loose till the last. Apart from a moving portrait of two sisters, so very different in character, it also showed me my own country—The Netherlands—and its people from a perspective from which we Dutch seldom see it. Jean Kwok has the sharp and intelligent eye of the newcomer who has lived here long enough to know perfectly well what she does and doesn't like about her second country. A wonderful portrait of immigrant family life and one of the best 'unputdownable' suspense novels I've read in a long time.”
—Herman Koch, New York Times bestselling author of The Dinner

"When brilliant, beautiful Sylvie Lee suddenly vanishes, brave Amy Lee embarks on a heart-stopping mission to find her lost sister. Crossing continents and generations, this magnificent and enthralling story unfolds with the intricate suspense of a classic mystery novel and blooms into a radiant tale of inter-generational family love. The haunting path of Amy's search for the exquisite, lost Sylvie is both mesmerizing and illuminating, spanning oceans and cultures, revealing secret promises and unforeseen passions."   
—Lan Samantha Chang, author of Inheritance, winner of the PEN Open Book Award, director of the University of Iowa MFA Program

“This isn’t a novelwas utterly spellbound.”
—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Deftly moving between generations and from New York to the Netherlands, SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE is a page-turner, and a suspensef

—it’s a puzzle box of familial secrets, some dark, others luminous, all of it haunting, mysterious, and completely satisfying. I ul journey of secrets, family, loyalty, and loss.”
—Lisa Ko, award-winning author of The Leavers, a National Book Award Finalist

“Jean Kwok’s luminous new novel had me enthralled from page one. Masterfully written, this suspenseful story of two sisters, and the power of long-buried secrets, is also a profound exploration of one immigrant family’s search for identity and belonging in an increasingly global world. SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE will haunt me for a long time.”
—Sari Wilson, acclaimed author of Girl through Glass
“Written in prose as mesmerizing and full of depth as a perfect pearl, Kwok’s new literary masterwork explores the Chinese immigrant experience both in New York and in Holland, but what it’s really getting at is what it means for anyone to belong—to both your community, your family—and to yourself, even as it explores one of my all-time favorite questions, ‘How well do we know the ones we love? And how well do we know our own selves?’ So smart about the price of being a sibling, the way families shift and change, and how secrets can damage as much as they can free, this is a novel that I loved and admired so much, I want everyone else on the planet to feel the same.“
—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You, Is this Tomorrow and the bestseller Cruel Beautiful World

“SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE made my pulse race and my heart ache. This novel takes readers twist by twist down an unpredictable path. Guided by Jean Kwok's masterful writing, we move toward a conclusion that we never see coming – and that we realize afterward could have been no other way. But this is not simply a thrilling mystery. It is a wrenching, rich, and emotionally resonant work of art. Kwok writes about identity, longing, language, and loss. She writes about how our cultures form us – how family members who grow up in different countries are divided by their experiences and bound together by their love. SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE combines extraordinary events with the beauty of people's ordinary lives. It is unforgettable."
—Julia Phillips, acclaimed author of Disappearing Earth