Book Review

Blog Tour/Book Review: The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Today we are kicking off the blog tours for Lisa Ko’s absolutely stunning novel The Leavers. I cannot wait to tell you all about this book and why I absolutely love it even though it hurts my heart so much while reading it!


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: 4.5/5 Heartfelt Resonating Stars

It took me a few attempts to write this review as I was feeling quite emotional after reading The Leavers. It is a very heart hitting coming of age story which also touches upon race, identity and immigration.

The Leavers tells the story of Chinese immigrants Deming and his mother Polly. When Deming was 11 years old, his mother who worked at a nail salon in New York disappeared one day and never returned. Deming was then adopted by a well distinguished white family in upstate New York. The story follows Deming, whose name was changed to Daniel, and his struggle of becoming part of this new family, his struggle of finding himself and his identity, and his struggle of coming to terms with why his mother left him behind without any word and any trace.

The Leavers is told from both Deming and Polly’s perspectives. While we are witnessing Deming’s struggling of trying to feel belong, we also see that, even separated, the love and the connection between Polly and Deming never disappears. We are seeing what the separation is doing to both the mother and son, and we will eventually understand why Polly made the decision of leaving Deming behind all those years ago.

This is without a doubt a book that is going to stay with me for a long long time. My heart is broken into million pieces seeing Deming’s struggle and Polly’s pain. This story deals with race, identity and immigration issues head on. It sheds some lights on the hardships of immigrants which call for understanding and sympathy. It deals with race and the fact that identity cannot be given but has to be found by your own self. It is also a story about mother and son and the love between them. It resonates with me and I am sure it will resonate with so many other readers too.

This is an excellent debut novel. I still cannot believe this is Lisa Ko’s first novel. It is such an honest, moving and heart felt coming of age story; it portraits the loneliness of Deming and longing of Polly so well. It is raw and realistic. It touches my heart deeply. It has been a few days since I read it and I still cannot stop thinking about it. It is amazing.

Thank you so much Grace Vincent, Little Brown UK and Dialogue Books for sending me a copy of this book. I absolutely loved it.

About The Author

Lisa Ko was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction and won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Her writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2016, The New York Times, Brooklyn Review, and extensively elsewhere. Born in Queens and raised in Jersey, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Make sure to check out other posts in the blog tour today

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