Title: The Leavers
Author: Lisa Ko
Published: April 26th, 2018
Publisher: Dialogue Books
Find the Author: Goodreads
Disclosure: I received this ARC in exchange for an impartial review. As always, my reviews are fair and unbiased.
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Winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Fiction.
One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to her job at a nail salon – and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left mystified and bereft. Eventually adopted by a pair of well-meaning white professors, Deming is moved from the Bronx to a small town upstate and renamed Daniel Wilkinson. But far from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his adoptive parents’ desire that he assimilate with his memories of his mother and the community he left behind.Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid examination of borders and belonging. It’s a moving story of how a boy comes into his own when everything he loves is taken away, and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of the past.
I don’t typically read books in the same genre as The Leavers, but lately I’ve been loving testing out different genres within the Adult and YA world and getting to have a fresh perspective on a new favourite or maybe, stumble upon something I wouldn’t have read in the first place. When I was offered the chance to be on the tour, I jumped at the chance. I love getting to celebrate an authors hard work and spread the word when I’ve loved a book. And did I love The Leavers? Read below to find out… (hint: it’s good news)
One morning, when Deming Guo’s mother, who is a Chinese immigrant and also happens to be undocumented, goes to work, she never returns and can’t be found anywhere. He feels lost in a world where his Mother isn’t in it. She’s the only person he’s been that close to, and without her, the pang of loneliness kicks in from the get-go. He doesn’t understand why she’s left, so he tries to change himself, hoping she’ll return…but she never does. In her absence when the people that Deming and Polly, his mother, lived with, can’t look after him anymore, he is renamed Daniel Wilkinson and adopted by two white-American professors, moving from the Bronx to a town upstate. He’s only human, but he understands the world around him far better than his Mother, Polly. She was alone when she came to America with her son, and in a world where he understands it more than her, she’s lost as well. Deming thrives in a way that she struggles to in a new country, and the two stories that The Leavers weaves for us couldn’t be more different and alike at the same time.
I was stunned by just how fast I turned the pages of The Leavers. I didn’t think I’d connect with the characters because of our vast differences in age and upbringing, but somehow, I felt a part of myself resonate with them so clearly through the pages. The pain of not fitting in, of having to sacrifice a part of yourself and the sense of trying to find a place you belong in a big world…I nodded so many times and felt myself feel for the characters.
Overall, The Leavers is more than a novel. It’s a gem. It’s a story of loss, love, belonging, loneliness, family and borders. There’s so much beneath the surface of pain and love, from the backstory of Polly to the current day of Daniel. Lisa has written a rare find that I absolutely loved. This will tug at your heartstrings all day long. Huge four stars!
Have you read The Leavers?
What did you think?
Let me know in the comments or on twitter using the hashtag #TheLeaversTour!