A review by plantbasedbride
The Downstairs Girl, by Stacey Lee

emotional funny hopeful informative inspiring mysterious fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


 The Downstairs Girl absolutely blew me away with its heart, boldness, and defiance.

Set in 1890s Atlanta, The Downstairs Girl shines a light on the life of Jo Kuan, a 17-year-old Chinese American girl trying to find her way in a world that is doing its best to box her in. Working as a lady's maid to a vicious mistress in a grand house, Jo finds solace in evenings at home where she and Old Gin, the kind man who took her in as an infant, live like stowaways in the basement under a print house. While listening in on a conversation in the rooms above and learning that the newspaper that is printed there is at risk of folding, Jo hatches a brilliant plan to anonymously pen a rousing advice column under the pen name "Miss Sweetie" in an attempt to save both the paper and her home.

In a poignant exploration of identity, belonging, betrayal, and the true meaning of family, Stacey Lee weaves the tale of the incomparable Jo into the fabric of a society on the brink of a seismic shift. The suffragette movement and their exclusion of women of colour take centre stage as Miss Sweetie tears down misconceptions of race and gender one witty and neoteric column at a time.

I adored Jo and that the focus of this story was on her goals and love of found family over a romantic relationship. Even the secondary characters were well-developed and vibrant, and the pacing felt just right. I couldn't put this one down and finished it in a single afternoon, crossing the finish line with tears in my eyes and my heartstrings thoroughly pulled.

I couldn't recommend this novel more. Please read it!

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