Miranda and Lucia are the daughters of a Chinese immigrant. Miranda is the older sister, born in China while Lucia came to America in her mother's womb and was born as an American citizen. Their mother had to work many jobs to support them and Miranda served as a second mother to Lucia for years. Due to these roles, Miranda has always been the stable responsible sibling while Lucia was carefree and impulsive, a free spirit who did whatever felt best at the moment.
The first problem came when Lucia was about to enter her twenties. The carefree antics start to tip over the line towards mania. She begins to hear voices, what she calls her snakes. Miranda and her mother see that Lucia needs help but she resists it until she has a full blown breakdown and has to be hospitalized.
Thus starts the rest of the sisters' lives. Miranda spends her time trying to convince Lucia to stay on medications and live responsibly. Lucia makes an impulsive marriage, then leaves her husband to have another man's baby. The birth of her baby causes another breakdown. By now Miranda has married and moved overseas so the responsibility for overseeing Lucia falls to her husband, Manny, who is unprepared for such a responsibility. An undocumented immigrant from Central America, he takes Lucia and the baby back home where he has family and no worries about being deported and the family lives there as their daughter grows.
Mira Lee has written a heartbreaking yet sensitive novel about mental illness, the stigma it carries and the lives it tears apart. Those around Lucia feel compelled to try to oversee her behavior which leaves Lucia feeling trapped and resentful. Can a person suffering from mental illness be left to make their own decisions and where is the line where those who love them must step in to prevent catastrophe? This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.