- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Algonquin Books; First Edition edition (May 2, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1616206888
- ISBN-13: 978-1616206888
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 337 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
The Leavers (National Book Award Finalist): A Novel Hardcover – May 2, 2017
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From the Publisher
From School Library Journal
Ko is the deserving recipient for the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for this socially engaged novel. Raised in rural China, bold Peilan realizes she is pregnant and decides she does not care to be a wife. She knows the best opportunities are in the United States, so she pays a loan shark to be smuggled to New York. Years later, Peilan, now "Polly," and her son, Deming, live in a cramped apartment in the Bronx. For Deming, life is good. But the day Polly doesn't come home, 11-year-old Deming must start a new life. Adopted by a white couple from rural New York, Deming Guo becomes Daniel Wilkinson. In a predominantly white town, Daniel's coming-of-age is difficult. At a low point in his college years, he unexpectedly discovers a link to his mother and embarks on a journey to find her—and, thus, himself again. Ko adroitly moves back and forth in time and between New York and China. The two parallel and sometimes overlapping stories come full circle as Peilan becomes Polly, Deming becomes Daniel, and the two return to their original names. Mastering English becomes an important status symbol to Polly, just as reclaiming his childhood language of Fuzhounese becomes vital to Daniel's own identity. VERDICT Ko's characters and their experiences will resonate with most readers. This moving work will particularly appeal to students interested in issues such as undocumented immigrants, poverty, cross-racial adoption, and second-generation Americans.—Tara Kehoe, formerly at the New Jersey State Library Talking Book and Braille Center, Trenton
—O, The Oprah Magazine (Favorite Books of 2017)
"[A] dazzling debut . . . Filled with exquisite, heartrending details, Ko’s exploration of the often-brutal immigrant experience in America is a moving tale of family and belonging.”
—People (Book of the Week)
“When Deming Guo was 11, his Chinese immigrant mother, Polly, left for work at a nail salon and never returned. In alternating perspectives, this heart-wrenching literary debut tells both of their stories. Grade: A”
“Ambitious . . . Lisa Ko has taken the headlines and has reminded us that beyond them lie messy, brave, extraordinary, ordinary lives.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Ko’s wrenching debut novel about an immigrant Chinese mother and her son has profound resonances that reach far beyond its setting. ...quietly sensational... its underlying themes of displacement and deportation carry deep and desperately urgent resonances far beyond America, and fiction.”
“This wrenching and all-too-topical debut novel picks up the life of an 11-year-old American-born boy on the day his mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, disappears . . . Ko uses the voices of both the boy and his birth mother to tell a story that unfolds in graceful, realistic fashion and defies expectations.”
—Janet Maslin, New York Times
“Lisa Ko's The Leavers is the year's powerful debut you won't want to miss. The Leavers expertly weaves a tale of the conflicts between love and loyalty, personal identity and familial obligation, and the growing divide between freedom and social justice. An affecting novel that details the the gut-wrenching realities facing illegal immigrants and their families in modern America, Lisa Ko's debut is the 2017 fiction release you can't afford to miss.”
“An exceptionally well written, fully realized work of art portraying the circumstances and inner worlds — the motives and emotional weather — of its two central characters. Ko is so psychologically penetrating, so acute in her passing observations and deft in the quick views she affords of her characters’ inner lives and surroundings, that her skill and empathy give real joy.”
—Barnes & Noble Review
"The Leavers describes the devastation caused by forced, abrupt and secret detentions that occur daily under our current Immigration Act. The novel weaves from past to present, from immediate abandonment to chronic loss, showing how the unfathomable disappearance of a mother eats into her son's effort to "move forward.” . . . The story soars when Ko writes of immigration detention— a civil detention for violation of a civil law that is as callous and brutal as the worst sort of criminal incarceration . . . [The Leavers] lets us feel the knife twist of sweeping government authority wielded without conscience or control. [Ko’s] work gives poignant voice to the fact the U.S. can, and must, write a better immigration system.”
“Consider this book a must-read: They may be fictional, but these characters have a lot to teach us about the difficulties of belonging and the plight of illegal immigrants.”
“Poignant and timely, this novel is ripe for discussion.”
“One of 2017's most anticipated fiction debuts… The winner of last year's PEN/Bellwether Prize, which recognizes fiction that explores issues of social justice, The Leavers feels as relevant as ever as the future of immigrants in America hangs in the balance.”
“Ko’s debut is a sweeping examination of family through the eyes of a single mother, a Chinese immigrant, and her U.S.-born son, whose separation haunts and defines their lives. Ko’s stunning tale of love and loyalty – to family, to country --- is a fresh and moving look at the immigrant experience in America, and is as timely as ever.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Touching upon themes such as identity, determination, addiction, and loyalty, the author clearly shows readers that she is an emerging writer to watch. Ko’s writing is strong, and her characters, whether major or minor, are skillfully developed. Readers who enjoy thoughtfully told relationship tales by authors such as Lisa See, Jamie Ford, and Nadia Hashimi will appreciate.”
—Library Journal, starred review
“Vividly written and moving, The Leavers is an engrossing story of one young boy struggling to adjust to his new life without his mother and community.”
“…a timely touching story…excellent: compelling, well-realized, gritty and complicated.”
—Kansas City Star
“…The Leavers is a masterful debut novel that examines borders and belonging, and the universal desire for love.”
“This excellent book has already won the PEN/Bellwether Award for Socially Engaged Fiction (selected by Barbara Kingsolver). One morning, eleven-year-old Deming Gao's mother is unexpectedly deported to China. Deming is then adopted by a white family and renamed Daniel Wilkerson. But as he grows up, he struggles to reconcile his new life with his former one.”
“Ko’s debut novel has already won the 2016 Pen/Bellwether Award for Socially Engaged Fiction, a prize created and selected by Barbara Kingsolver. The contest awards a novel “that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships,” and Ko’s book certainly fits that laudable description.”
“An inspiring debut, which focuses on issues of assimilation and the true meaning of home. Ko’s unforgettable narrative voice is a credit to the moving stories of immigration, loss, recovery, and acceptance that feel particularly suited to our times.”
“Lisa Ko's The Leavers, which won the PEN/Bellwether Prize, may be a work of fiction, but the plot twists mirror America’s own urgent and timely political landscape.”
“…gorgeously redemptive… Lisa Ko's debut novel is an achingly beautiful read about immigration, adoption, and the drive to belong. Beyond the desensitizing media coverage, Ko gives faces, (multiple) names, and details to create a riveting story of a remarkable family coming, going, leaving … all in hopes of someday returning to one another.”
—Christian Science Monitor
“If you come away from reading The Leavers with a sense of disconnect, that’s no surprise—disconnectedness is its central theme, its structural and stylistic touchpoint, and the emotional engine driving its main characters . . . The Leavers stands firmly as Lisa Ko’s act of arrival.”
“A searing novel about a mother and son who are separated by forces beyond their control in New York, a book that promises to challenge our perceptions of immigration, adoption, family and American values.”
“This timely novel depicts the heart- and spirit-breaking difficulties faced by illegal immigrants with meticulous specificity.”
“…skillfully written…those who are interested in closely observed, character-driven fiction will want to leave room for The Leavers on their shelves.”
“What Ko seeks to do with The Leavers is illuminate the consequence of [deportation] facilities, and of the deportation machine as a whole, on individual lives. Ko’s book arrives at a time when it is most needed; its success will be measured in its ability to move its readership along the continuum between complacency and advocacy.”
—Los Angeles Review of Books
“…The Leavers…using effective literary techniques and beautiful language – powerfully illustrates the impact that social policies and injustice have on the lives of individuals and families.”
An “assured debut novel…a timely story of immigrant families in America…a thoughtful work about undocumented immigrants and the threats they endure.”
"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.”
"Courageous, sensitive, and perfectly of this moment: The Leavers is everything I could hope for in a winner of the Bellwether Prize."
“In The Leavers, Lisa Ko has created one of the most courageous mother character's in recent memory. Polly is brash, brave and heartbreaking and her ferocity is marvelous to behold. The Leavers is about the bonds between parents and children and the many pulls of home. It was a book I did not want to end.”
—Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman
"A rich and sensitive portrait of lives lived across borders, cultures, and languages. . . one of the most engaging, deeply probing, and beautiful books I have read this year."
—Laila Lalami, author of The Moor’s Account
"A moving mother/son story and welcome contribution to immigrant literature. In writing about Polly and her son Deming, Ko captures one family's unique experience of becoming American while also exposing the loss of status, economic desperation, physical endangerment, and psychological grit of the undocumented worker as well as the alienation, double consciousness, mobility, and comparative access of the first generation."
—Emily Raboteau, author of Searching for Zion
“The story’s most heartbreaking disclosures are powerful in their indictment of the unrealistic expectations placed upon struggling families.”
Try the Kindle edition and experience these great reading features:
337 customer reviews
Review this product
Showing 1-4 of 337 reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The book opens with Deming Guo and his mother Polly. They are living in a tiny apartment in NYC with relatives and life is a struggle, but all seems well. Polly goes off to work one day and does not return. Deming is brought to child services where he is adopted by a NY suburban couple and is given the name Daniel.
Daniel isn't the perfect child, he struggles in school, he kind of coasts through life, and winds up with a gambling addiction and isolates himself from his friends.
Daniel is haunted by his memories of his previous life. He knows he is not Daniel, but Deming and he knows his mother is out there somewhere, so he begins his search for her and what happened that day.
The narrative shifts to Polly's story. It is a story of coming into NY as an undocumented pregnant woman who is dropped off alone in the world. She has always been independent, but now she is in NY and must work low wage jobs to make ends meet. She has to make tough choices in her life to protect her son. Her life is a life of struggle and frustration as she knows this isn't the life she wants. Her narrative takes us back to the day she left Deming behind because she was arrested and deported in an immigration raid (not a spoiler).
A lot more happens, but I would start walking into spoiler territory, so I am going to end there.
I have to write, I loved the parallel lives. Both Daniel and Polly are in places and situations they don't want to be in. They are missing their identities and travel the world kind of lost. Both have major struggles, but they are incredibly different struggles. It was a great piece on identity and not being content with oneself.
The writing in the book drew me in and I just flew through this book. The story doesn't ever really slow at all and at times I didn't want to put it down. It isn't that a lot happens, but you do care about Daniel and Polly. The emotional pull of almost resenting Polly for what she did and the pull back to loving her because she had no other choice, but to give up Deming was a roller coaster.
I cannot recommend this one enough. This is a pure drama, so don't expect comedy breaks or a beach read. This is just a great book that needs time to marinade with.
I gave this one 5 stars.
I thought of that boy, now a man, while reading Lisa Ko's debut novel The Leavers. The book is a moving journey into the lives of Deming/Daniel, a Chinese American child adopted by an American family, and his birth mother Pelian/Polly, bold and strong but whose fierce love of her child cannot save them from the forces--poverty and the law-- that inevitably separate her from her child.
Pelian/Polly Gao is an unforgettable character, born in rural China, daughter of a fisherman. She imagines possibilities of another life and will do anything to achieve her dreams. She could have settled for marrying the village boy who loved her, remained in China, taking care of her aging fisherman father. She could have had an abortion and stayed in the Chinese factory dormitory, working long hours. Instead, she takes out a loan to go to America.
Her son Deming was born in New York City. But Polly's debt meant long hours working for low wages. She sends her son to live with her father in China. After the death of his grandfather, Deming rejoins his mother, who is living with her boyfriend and his sister and nephew. Those years are Deming's happiest. He adores his mother and has a 'brother' for best friend.
One day Deming's mother disappears. He is placed in a foster home and is adopted by an educated and well-off family. Now called Daniel, the boy never feels at home in his new world, any more than his mother had felt at home in her rural village.
Daniel flounders in life. Then he is brought into contact with people from his past who led him on a quest to find his mother. And finally learns the harrowing events that led to their separation.
Illegal immigration, the immigrant experience, the love between a mother and a child, and the search for authenticity and a place to belong are all themes in the novel.
The novel has garnered much well deserved praise and I purchased it to read. The beauty of Ko's writing and the memorable characters made this an outstanding read.