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The Leavers
Cover of The Leavers
The Leavers
A Novel
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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,...
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,...
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Description-

  • 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.
 

Awards-

About the Author-

  • Lisa Ko's fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2016, Narrative, Copper Nickel, and the Asian Pacific American Journal. She is a founding coeditor of Hyphen and a fiction editor at Drunken Boat.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from February 13, 2017
    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. Eleven-year-old Deming’s mother, Polly, suddenly disappears from the nail salon where she works, leaving him at the Bronx apartment they share with her boyfriend, Leon, Leon’s sister, and her 10-year-old son. Weeks later, Deming is handed over to a “new family”—white suburban college teachers Kay and Peter, who name him Daniel. But it hardly guarantees a storybook ending; Daniel fails in college and struggles to make it as a musician. And then he learns that his missing mother is alive. The narration is then taken over by Polly, who describes her journey to America as an unwed pregnant teenager, and the cramped living arrangements and low-paying jobs that finally take her and Deming to the Bronx. “It was a funny thing, forgiveness,” Deming finds. “You could spend years being angry with someone and then realize you no longer feel the same.” 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.

  • AudioFile Magazine Lisa Ko's debut novel is getting a lot of positive attention, and Emily Woo Zeller's performance of the audiobook does justice to the text. Zeller maintains emotional engagement throughout the story of Deming, a boy whose mother, a Chinese immigrant, mysteriously disappears when he is only 11, leaving him to be adopted by a white couple. Zeller's performance sometimes becomes too dramatic; there are moments when a more understated delivery and a more measured pace would be easier to absorb. That said, the audiobook is a solid listen, thanks to Zeller's consistent portrayals of the complex characters. THE LEAVERS is worth sticking around for. L.B.F. � AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 31, 2017
    Ko’s novel centers on Peilan/Polly, a Chinese immigrant who fails to return from work one day, abandoning her 11-year-old son in the Bronx. Through perspective shifts and flashbacks, the story gradually reveals what happened to her during the years after while following the son, Deming, through his turbulent adolescence and young adulthood. Zeller is a veteran narrator with dozens of titles to her credit, but this is not her best audio work. The first problem is that, with the exception of Polly, most of the female characters sound the same, with a high-pitched, overly bright voice that comes across as manufactured. This characterization is particularly true of Daniel’s Anglo-American foster mother and her best friend, but it extends to other women as well, including some of Polly’s cadre of roommates when she is trying to make it in Fuzhou and then in New York. Second, Zeller heightens the novel’s anxiety so often that the listener becomes inured to the story’s subtler emotions. When small mishaps engender the kind of pressured speech and rising pitch that Zeller frequently employs for these characters, it becomes harder to believe their emotions when responding to a genuine crisis. An Algonquin hardcover.

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