The Leavers

The Leavers

A Novel

Book - 2017
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Named a Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Entertainment Weekly , the Los Angeles Times , BuzzFeed , Bustle , and Electric Literature

"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.

Publisher: Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2017.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781616206888
Branch Call Number: KO L
Characteristics: 338 pages ; 24 cm


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"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,  au... Read More »

This complex coming of age story is set in China and New York. This book won the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.

Nominee, Fiction

From the critics

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Jan 19, 2020

An engaging story about cross-cultural adoption and problems faced by immigrants new to this country. Believable and thought-provoking. An anachronism referred to by another reviewer didn't detract from the plot.

Aug 27, 2019

From: Ghettostone Publications Company's Editor/ Chief Michael R. Brown and the BEST SELLER'S BOOK CLUB, a review of "The Leavers" by Lisa Ko.

The book "THE LEAVERS" an enriching award winning story about one of America's hottest issues "immigration" and the hidden world of "ICE" agents and their devastation on families.
Deming Gu and Polly Gu mother and son have been through a lot. Immigrating to the U.S. from China, escaping loan sharks and being separated for years without knowing the reasons why. This well written story draws the reader in emotionally through the story of a young teenager working hard to get somewhere in life. And the personal sacrifices made by thousands of immigrant families brave enough to search for a better life. The readers are given a first person perspective using individualized descriptions of experiences while introducing it's readers to "the process" of government intervention and it's personal impacts on people's lives. The twists and turns are complexed, heart felt, gripping and telling. Making "THE LEAVERS" a story that is hard to deny in a country where the realities of migrating are much more that the surface political arguments that American dane to discuss...!

THE BEST SELLER BOOK CLUB and it's leader Michael R. Brown, highly recommends this most worthy title to all of our life long learners...! Enjoy- This title marks the end of summer 2019's reading lists...! But we are far from finished....!


Michael R. Brown, Editor/Chief
Ghettostone Publications Company

please like of @ghettostone/ facebook

Aug 02, 2019

could not keep reading - the constant refrain of the protagonist was too much

Apr 02, 2019

THE LEAVERS is an ambitious novel with timely themes. It follows the struggles of 2 main characters: the undocumented Chinese immigrant Peilan/Polly and her son, Deming/Daniel. Their storylines are told to varying degrees of success by author Lisa Ko, and therein lies the book’s main problem for me. Much of the time the writing got in the way of my enjoyment of the book. Of the 2 narratives, Peilan’s/Polly’s came off as more sympathetic and absorbing. Kudos to Lisa Ko for tackling some difficult issues and challenging this reader to think. I just wish I had liked this book more.

Feb 05, 2019

Lisa Ko caught me completely off guard with this eye opener. Timely and heartbreaking as Polly, and illegal Chines Immigrant to the US works to create a safe and loving life for her son, but everything goes awry when ICE pick her up and deports her. Her son's life is totally derailed, adopted by a while set of parents and no way to find his real self or understand what happened. He is isolated and hijacked from his native culture. He is an outsider, lost, and unsure of how to find out what part of him is Chinese and which part is American. What is the future for him if he does not know the past? Parents want a better life for their children but do we do it right or make errors in the process.

Jul 09, 2018

I loved this story of a mom and her son, and all the challenges and difficult choices they both had to make. Polly is just trying to make a better life for herself, and despite her struggles and hardships, she maintains a strong and resilient character. Though Polly and the many friends she makes on her journey, the author shows us the many layers, good and bad, of immigrant culture. In the current political environment, illegal immigrants are seen by some in a very negative light--as criminals, rapists, people wanting to sponge off the US government. But how can we fault people for wanting a better life for themselves and their families?

The Leavers tells the story of Polly, the mom, and her life journey as a young girl from a poor village, then an immigrant in New York, then a businesswoman in China. It also tells the story of her American-born son, who at 11 years old got left behind when Polly got deported and remained unanchored, despite being adopted and well cared-for by a nice white couple in upstate New York. Both mom and son were scarred for life by her capture and deportation, and this is the story of how they learned to live with themselves and their dual identities as Chinese and American.

I highly recommend this book!

Apr 01, 2018

Loved this book, although the first couple chapters was hard for me to get into. It pulls with your emotions of betrayal, abandonment, adoption, culture etc.

Feb 13, 2018

This story is so relevant for today. If you have no future in your native land, and come to the US illegally, you end up living a shadow life. You can’t expect to have much of a future. When Polly leaves China for what she hopes will be a better life in New York City for her and her unborn son, she finds it’s a heck of a hard climb to survive. When she is caught by INS she is sent back to China, and her son eventually ends up being adopted. What happens to the two of them creates a drama that many people are facing.

Jan 04, 2018

What confusion Ms. Ko has about matching technology to actual timeline. It is unbelievable that her editors did not pick up on this!!!

On page 179 Polly "takes out her phone to call Yi Ba" Unfortunate that Ms. Ko has assigned a cell phone to make the call when there were no cell phones 20 years ago. Hard to understand? Believe it or not, kids. There were NO CELL PHONE 20 YEARS AGO.. So.. how would our heroine make a call to China?? Pay phones were still around. Nobody could record the twin towers falling in NYC when it happened even 17 years ago. Why? No cell phones yet and certainly no cell phones with cameras.

So, if Ms. Ko wants to continue her narrative about Daniel's Mom phoning Grandfather in China to find out he has died of a heart attack? It was from a land line or a pay phone. If she whipped out her cell phone, it would have weighed about 3 lbs. They were in their infancy at that point.

Good try, though. Good try.

So read this book with a grain of made up salt. It does not follow any actual timeline.

Oct 29, 2017

Daniel, Deming Guo, was adopted by an American couple under circumstances the reader will much later find out. In the meantime Daniel's life unfolds as he remembers his childhood and those who helped shape his adult life. The author tells her story by taking us deeply into the complexities of an immigrant and their expectations, dreams, and ability to maintain family.
At times I skimmed when the author stayed too long in a situation but overall I found the novel rich in detail and I was easily drawn in.

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Apr 01, 2018

Mya614 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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