The Leavers by Lisa Ko

leaversRelease Date: May 2,2017

Book Blurb from

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

This powerful debut is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.

My Review:

Deming Guo is a fifth grader living with his mother Polly in the Bronx. Polly is an illegal immigrant who supports them by working at a nearby nail salon. Together, they live in an apartment with her boyfriend and his family.  One day, Polly does not return home from work and no one can find her.  

Ten years later, Deming is a college student named Daniel. He is struggling with life and has developed a gambling problem. He is uninterested in college, and his friends are tired of his indecisiveness. He is a disappointment to his adoptive parents who have continued to provide support and encouragement throughout the years. He has believed throughout his life that his mother has abandoned him and this has shaped his behavior. This story evolves into the mystery regarding his mother’s disappearance and how it has haunted his life.

The depiction of the emotional connection between mother and child is aided by the the flashbacks of Deming’s and Polly’s life prior to her disappearance.   Points of view swap between both characters  and enhances the flow of the book.  The Leavers also provides readers with glimpses of the hardships faced by immigrants trying to assimilate to a new country.

This is a debut novel by Lisa Ko. I believe that we will be hearing a lot more about this book as it gets closer to the 2017 release date.

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