Title- The Leavers
Author- Lisa Ko
Published- May 2nd 2017
Genre- Contemporary, literary fiction
Length- 352 pages
Synopsis (Goodreads)- 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.
Review- I received an ARC of this from the publisher so thank you to them.
Overall I did enjoy this book but it felt long and the end dragged a bit.
This isn’t an action packed book by any means, instead it focuses on description. It is told from two view points, that of Deming/Daniel, and his mother. It covers both past and present in the US and China. Mostly the switch between characters and times was well done but there was one chapter where for a few (kindle) pages I didn’t know who the narrator was supposed to be. The language however was always easy to understand and there was never too much information given at once, characters were introduced gradually etc so there was never any confusion about who was who.
The story is interesting, though as someone very keen on education I was a bit annoyed by Deming/Daniel. I felt like he was constantly making excuses for not working hard. Yes he had had some upsetting times but plenty of people have it much worse and still function very well. To me he seemed immature and lazy a lot of the time. I also felt that his mother’s personality wasn’t very consistent. Descriptions of various times in her life could easily have been about completely different people.
There are various “important” themes in this book, belonging, culture, roots, family etc. I imagine that will make it very appealing to a lot of people but I feel like there were a lot of stereotypes used so I’m not sure how realistic a lot of it is.
Overall I did enjoy the book, the story was interesting, but I just didn’t have the sympathy for Deming/Daniel that I think you are supposed to. I would recommend this book though if you enjoy a lot of “story telling”.