08 Mar / Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee [in Library Journal]
Mira T. Lee’s impressive debut – both a celebration and mourning of the bond between two sisters, the younger afflicted with mental illness, the elder desperate to save her – deserves better aural interpretation. The full cast (in rare recognition, a who-was-who is added at recording’s end) includes Emily Woo Zeller as older sister Miranda, Kim Mai Guest as younger sister Lucia, Ozzie Rodriquez as Lucia’s lover Manuel, and Paul Boehner as Lucia’s husband, Yonah. Cassandra Campbell serves as omniscient narrator for the prologue and Part 2, when Lee’s narrative switches from first to third person.
The usual challenges of a multi-reader production are present here, especially with inconsistent characterizations among performers: Lucia’s Pakistani American friend Nipa’s accent varies noticeably; the word jie (older sister) changes its syllable-count. The most jarring transition happens when Lucia boards the flight from New York City in Guest’s youthful voice as Part 1 concludes and seems to age suddenly decades with a turn of a page as she lands in Ecuador as Campbell continues the narrative in Part 2.
Verdict: For multi-tasking readers satisfied with words read aloud, this production will surely appease; audio aficionados used to affecting performances should consider choosing the page.