The Leavers

By Lisa Ko

The Leavers: A Novel by [Ko, Lisa]

4 out of 5 stars

Deming is a young Chinese American boy living with his mother, her boyfriend, his sister and her son in New York City. It is not a life that Deming has grown up with. His mother Peilan (Polly), got pregnant when she wasn’t married and had sent her son back to China to live her father. She brought him back when he was of school age and they lived a life that wasn’t always easy but he was happy. Until the one day she doesn’t come home, he is put into foster care and then is adopted by two American professors. He becomes Daniel Wilkinson but not really. He feels as if he doesn’t really belong in either world.

Across the world in China, Polly has married and is doing very well. Her husband has no idea she has a son. When Deming calls her out of the blue, she is happy and scared. She too feels as if she doesn’t really belong in her world. Deming makes his way to her but can they mend the separation between them? It was such an interesting take on how the cultures look at each other. How well she could do in China and yet have to struggle in America just to get by.

As we find out exactly what happened to Polly when she didn’t come home, we really see the racism and fear that many people have had to deal with. Even with Deming’s adoptive parents, who are trying hard, they look at things in black and white. The story is about both of these lost souls finding themselves. There were times I didn’t like Polly very much and Daniel, for that matter. They were both so locked up in their own wants but as you read more into their stories, they both became so much more understandable. That mother/child bond is immense, even if time and space separates them. I also loved the ending. It was wrapped up perfectly.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review.

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