The Leavers

The Leavers

A Novel

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
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LONGLISTED FOR THE 2017 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION

"There was a time I would have called Lisa Ko's novel beautifully written, ambitious, and moving, and all of that is true, but it's more than that now: if you want to understand a forgotten and essential part of the world we live in, The Leavers is required reading." --Ann Patchett, ?author of Commonwealth

Lisa Ko's powerful debut, The Leavers , is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.

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.
Told from the perspective of both Daniel--as he grows into a directionless young man--and Polly, Ko's novel gives us one of fiction's most singular mothers. Loving and selfish, determined and frightened, Polly is forced to make one heartwrenching choice after another.
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.


Lisa Ko's fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2016 , Apogee Journal , Narrative , Copper Nickel , the Asian Pacific American Journal , and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Writers OMI at Ledig House, the Jerome Foundation, and Blue Mountain Center, among others. She was born in New York City, where she now lives. Visit her at lisa-ko.com .
Publisher: Chapel Hill, North Carolina :, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill,, ©2017.
ISBN: 9781616206888
Branch Call Number: FICTION KO
Characteristics: 338 pages ; 24 cm

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AL_MARINA Sep 18, 2017

Ko takes us behind the headlines about ICE raids and deportation to flesh out a moving and mournful tale of a son growing up without a mother, her mystery a constant, gnawing puzzle that colors his whole life.

AL_ANNAL Aug 29, 2017

This is a compelling and sensitive story of a Chinese immigrant and her son. Life becomes complicated and you feel for the boy and eventually for his mother as the story unfolds.

l
lgold08540
Jun 19, 2017

please don't throw tomatoes at me. i could not sympathize with the protagonist at all; at times, i wanted to smack him and say grow up already!

PimaLib_LoisM Jun 09, 2017

The Leavers is one of the best books I've read this year. Deming Guo struggles to find his true identity and sense of belonging after growing up in both New York City and Fouzhou, China. His life at age 6 falls apart when his mother leaves for work at a nail salon and never returns. Deming is adopted by an Anglo couple who are professors at a university, and is renamed Daniel Wilkerson. The story alternates between Deming and his mother's perspectives, and keeps the reader enthralled until the end, when we find out the real story behind why Deming's mother left him.

k
karen3515
Jun 05, 2017

Set in New York and China, The Leavers, is told from the perspectives of an American born boy and his undocumented Chinese immigrant mother.
When young Deming Gou's mother Polly disappears, he is adopted by a caucasian couple who are professors in upstate New York and he is renamed Daniel Wilkinson. In his college years, he is overwhelmed by his struggles with identity, his past, and his abandonment by his mother. As the story unfolds, we discover the tragic circumstances leading to the separation of Polly and Deming.
Ko's powerfully written debut novel examines culture, immigration, family, alienation and belonging.
The Leavers, is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.

n
njon38
May 13, 2017

Winner of the Barbara Kingsolver Bellwether prize it is an immigrant story that is simply engrossing. It explores the question of of how one finds a a comfortable place after living in two separate and vastly different cultures. One commentator suggest it reflects "the alienation and double consciousness of the first generation". In and odd way it reminds me of the News of the World, although vastly different time and place. I loved this book.

jpainter May 05, 2017

Highly recommended read that tugs at the heart while engaging the mind. This personal narrative presents places, faces, character traits, and backstories that are seamlessly woven to reflect the immigrant experiences of several interconnected families: a mother, a son, foster parents, and caregivers. I savored this book as a galley, but it's just as easily read in one big gulp.

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