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The Leavers

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  22,543 ratings  ·  2,731 reviews
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 h
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 2nd 2017 by Algonquin Books
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MELISSIA LENOX edelweiss is another site that provide free arcs to book bloggers and librarians in exchange for honest reviews and if positive, opportunity for…moreedelweiss is another site that provide free arcs to book bloggers and librarians in exchange for honest reviews and if positive, opportunity for relatively low cost marketing via bloggers' review of books on their own blog as well as other social media distribution and subsequent word of mouth selling power. (less)
Lavida Yes, it is. and the tote bag looks like something I'd be happy to have.

Community Reviews

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Emily May
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-lit, botm, 2017
Junior year of high school, he had seen a Chinese woman in the Littletown Mall. Thin, with permed hair, gripping plastic bags with the handles twisted around each other. She'd honed in; there was no hiding his face, and when she spoke he understood her Mandarin. She was lost. Could he help? She needed to make a phone call, find a bus. Her face was scared and anxious. Two teenage boys, pale and gangly, had watched and mimicked her accent, and Daniel had said, in English, "I can't speak Chinese."
Elyse Walters
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow!!... This book is a kindle special for $1.99 today. If you haven’t read it yet - have a kindle - grab it for this price!!! It’s a GREAT BOOK! I thought I was the fool for waiting so long to read it.

It was only after I touched the hardback in my indi Book store -- silky smooth to touch... gorgeous vibrant orange color...stamped as an "Literary Award Winner"....did I ask myself, "what the hell is wrong with you?" Why was I hesitating reading this book? I knew about it - read a few things abou
Larry H
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing

The Leavers by Lisa Ko is utterly exquisite. This book about two different people's struggle between doing what is right, what people want and expect them to do, and what they want to do, is tremendously moving and powerful. As the title suggests, it's both a story of those who leave and the effect on those who are left.

Deming Guo is 11 years old. He's being raised by his mother, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, and they live in a crowded Bronx apartment with Polly's boyfriend, his sis
Angela M
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Imagine you're a 17 year old girl named Peilan who becomes Polly, and you've come come to the US from China seeking a better life . And oh by the way you're pregnant and here illegally, owing a loan shark $50,000. You have to work long hours in awful working conditions to scrape enough for the payments. You have to bring your infant son to work with you because there is no one to care for him. There are some things that happen in this story that were hard to relate to but then this immigrant exp ...more
Susanne Strong
5 Stars.

Deming Guo was a young boy when one day, his mother disappeared. That morning, he went to school and she went to work. The difference? He came home.

"The Leavers" is a coming of age story about a Chinese American boy named Deming Guo (n/k/a Daniel Wilkinson). Deming had to grow up faster, and learn to shut off his feelings and thoughts in a way that no child ever should.

He and his mother Peilan (Polly) were always very close. They were, like two birds of a feather, two peas in a pod, be
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Damn damn damn spoilers! Even though the blurb and reviews don’t come out and say exactly what happened, a couple of buzz words kept loudly buzzing around in my head. Unfortunately, they landed on the exact right spot. Bingo! I figured out what had happened almost as soon as the story started. It spoiled the mystery, that’s for sure.

But luckily this story isn’t primarily a mystery. It’s a well-written and interesting coming-of-age story about a Chinese-American kid, Deming (aka Daniel). It’s als
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
The Leavers by Lisa Ko is a 2017 Algonquin Books publication.

Timely, heartbreaking, and emotional.

Polly immigrates to the US from China and is raising her young son Deming, living with her boyfriend, Leon, his sister, Vivian, and her son, Michael. But, one day, after an argument, Polly leaves for work and disappears.

With no blood relatives, Deming finds himself at the mercy of Vivian, who says she can’t afford to keep him. However, he does end up in a good home, with Kay and Peter, an educated
Mar 29, 2017 added it
Shelves: fiction, debut
With sincere gratitude I thank Algonquin Books, Annie Mazes of Workman Publishing, the author, Lisa Ko, and Edelweiss for providing an e-galley of Leavers for my enjoyment and review.
A special shout-out to Northshire Bookstore and Tracy Davies, Events Manager for bringing Kisa Ko to Booktopia 2017 in Manchester, Vermont.

I usually format my reviews with The Hook, The Line, and The Sinker. This is difficult to do with galleys as the publisher asks that passages not be quoted, as the finished work
Suzanne Leopold
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Deming Guo is a fifth grader living with his mother Polly in the Bronx. Polly is an illegal immigrant who supports them by working at a nearby nail salon. Together, they live in an apartment with her boyfriend and his family. One day, Polly does not return home from work and no one can find her.

Ten years later, Deming is a college student named Daniel. He is struggling with life and has developed a gambling problem. He is uninterested in college, and his friends are tired of his indecisiveness.
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: xx2017-completed
In China, Polly longs for a better life – one of adventure and excitement rather than confinement and poverty. Although she works for a time in a larger city, she continues to long for more. Polly ends up in New York, owing a vast amount of money to loan sharks in order to pursue her dreams. She has a baby boy, Deming, and eventually has to extend her loan to send him back to her father in China until he is school age.

When Deming returns, Polly is still living in straitened circumstances and wor
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recent-favorites
I've had a great reading year in 2017, and The Leavers is in my top favorites.

Thanks to my reading friends who strongly encouraged me to read The Leavers because I never tire of books on immigrant experiences. Forgive my idealism, but I believe this is one of those empathy-building/perspective-taking books you wish everyone would read. Being an immigrant in a foreign country is not easy for Peilan. She arrived in the United States young, pregnant, and owing an enormous debt. I don't want to give
da AL
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book itself was great in terms of subject matter and writing. The audio reader's 'everything through gritted teeth angst' took a while to see past, though.
Cathrine ☯️
Apr 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: group-challenge
3.5 ★
When Barbara Kingsolver and Ann Patchett endorse a book I pay attention.
Lisa Ko’s debut novel is a book-full of many things. Among them, a mother/son relationship, the plight of undocumented immigrants and their children born in the United States with all rights and privileges of citizenship denied their parents, the search for personal identity and self-worth, foster parenting and adoption, skilled writing I very much appreciated—at times—and therein was also my problem with it.
The writin
May 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
"I promise I'll never leave you."

Deming Guo/Daniel Wilkinson has never had much stability in his life. He was born in New York to an undocumented Chinese immigrant, but was sent to live with family in China when he was only one year old. He was sent back to New York to live with his mother when he turned six. Five years later, his mother disappears without a trace. Peilan/Polly Guo left for work one morning and never returned. At the age of eleven, the people he thought were his family place h
I'm having a hard time getting my thoughts together on The Leavers. You know those books that technically do everything right, but you still don't love them for some reason? 3 stars feels unfair to the author, who's created a beautiful story that sweeps across multiple generations and locations, but I'm in the habit of using my reviews and ratings to express my personal experience with books. I'm not trying to reach an objective truth, here, just explain why I wasn't able to love this book the w ...more
Aug 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: i-own-it, 2017, botm
The Leavers was a compelling novel that did an excellent job of putting me in the headspace of someone I don't identify with at all. Deming Guo is adopted by a white upper-middle class couple after his mother disappears from her job one day. The struggles of identity, trying to fit in, and coping with loss that Deming—later called Daniel—tries to navigate as he grows up in a new setting were all moving and relatable.

However, I felt by the end of the novel, there was a lot of repetition and I thi
Liz Overberg
Mar 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
I wanted so much to love this book, but it fell flat for me. The scope is too large, encompassing Deming/Daniel's childhood and his present, as well as 23 years of his mother's life. The narrative jumps all over the place chronologically. It's difficult to like any of the characters, and every moment seems like a rock-bottom moment for someone. There was no build to a climax, with the whole book feeling like one big, dark depressing weight. I would have loved more information about Polly's exper ...more
Stunning, emotionally charged, socially critical novel about a young female Chinese woman and her American born son.  This novel tackles so much and does it well.  It takes place in China as well as in America.  The voice alternates from first person perspective of Peilan Guo and third person perspective of her son, Deming.

Peilan, fled China young and pregnant, in hopes of escaping the boy who impregnated her as well as the pregnancy, only to find she was a few weeks past 7 months and terminatio
Dec 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-reads
He recalled how she and Peter had insisted on English, his new name, the right education. How better and more hinged on their ideas of success, their plans. Mama, Chinese, the Bronx, Deming: they had never been enough. He shivered, and for a brief, horrible moment, he could see himself the way he realized they saw him - as someone who needed to be saved.

Lisa Ko's The Leavers is such a raw, honest read, a novel of alienation and identity, adoption and duality and what it means to be family, t
Dorie  - Traveling Sister :)
It is hard to believe that this powerful, beautifully written and timely book is a debut novel. It was awarded the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.

The novel is told from two points of view. We learn about Deming’s life in the Bronx where he lives in a small apartment with his mother, Peilan/Polly, her boyfriend Leon, his sister, Vivian, and her son, Michael. It is a hard life, his mother always struggling to make end
Stephanie Anze
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Deming Guo lives with his mom Polly, her boyfriend Leon, and his family in a cramped apartment in New York. Every morning Polly leaves to work at a nail salon. One day, Polly does not come back home and her whereabouts are unknown. Deming stays with Leon's family for some time longer but soon the financial burden is too much and he is placed in foster care. Eventually he is adopted by two white college professors, who change his name to Daniel Wilkinson and move him to the suburbs. No longer sur ...more
Jul 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: public-library
This novel is about the ones who leave, and the ones who have been left, focusing primarily on a mother and son.  There are myriad meanings to a life left behind.  A young boy, set adrift, questioning his worth, unable to find what he truly wants out of life.

Catch a whiff of a bus that smells like feet, try not to breathe as you make your way up a street that reeks of 'flatulent exhaust' fumes.  I love this type of writing, but I wasn't wild about the novel overall.  Couldn't find my rhythm with
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
There have been slim pickings lately on Hoopla. Because of this, I’m listening to fiction as I fold laundry and do yard work and it isn’t going so well. There’s a lot wrapped up in the narrator and I often wonder how much that piece affects my rating. This is a review of the audio because especially with this story, I suspect had a read it, I may have enjoyed it more.

This story is sad and it’s a remarkably layered debut, but for me it lacked the haunting quality that allows a story to attach to
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
One morning Deming (Daniel) Guo's Mother, Peilan (Polly) goes to work at the nail salon where she is employed and does not return. For awhile Deming (Daniel) continues to live in the home they shared with Polly's boyfriend, his sister and her son. Just where did Polly go? Before she went missing she was talking about moving to Florida to earn more money and have a higher standard of living. She wanted the American dream of having a better life for her and her son. Having a better life was hard a ...more
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
"It's important to be strong."

This was a mantra for one of the main characters, not only when he faced a crisis in his life, but whenever he began to trust someone. This tells you quite a bit about him and a running theme throughout this story of two people struggling to live the lives they were meant to live. Though on a broader scale, this is a timely and important book concerning the treatment of illegal immigrants in the US. It is also about the issue of robbing an adopted child of his cultu
Demming Guo is living in NYC with his mother and all is right in the world-- at least in the mind of a eleven year old. One day, all that changes when Demming's mother doesn't come home from work. Demming finds himself getting placed for adoption and with that Demming becomes Daniel Wilkinson.

On the surface, a story about a mother/son relationship. At its core-- a tense story about immigration and how often it tears families apart with no notice. Lisa Ko brilliantly creates an all too real story
Whispering Stories
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Book Reviewed by Stacey on

The leavers by Lisa Ko is ultimately a story of love, loss and finding yourself when you feel that you don’t fit in.

At ten-years-old, Deming Guo has already had an eventful life. His mother Peilan (Polly) Guo was an immigrant from China to the USA, arriving whilst pregnant with Deming. Unable to support him he was sent to live with her father back in China until the age of six when his Grandfather died. He then returned to New York to live with
Hard to summarize, so I'll just say this: I once read an article that stated that research indicated that the reason so many immigrants achieve amazing success in the United States is because there's a certain boldness of character required to move across the world to a foreign culture, and that this boldness serves you well in all circumstances. Polly Guo strikes me as a wonderful epitome of this theory.


Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My friend Adlah told me to read this book. We've been sharing books we're reading for years. Thus far she's always suggested books I loved. This book was no different.

The book will drive home the experience of immigration and the effect on everyone, especially children.

Beautiful book. I dare you to try and not cry at the end.
Book of the Month
The Outsider’s Guide to Not Fitting In
By Judge Elizabeth Kiefer

There’s no better time to read a powerful book than when the world feels cold and unfriendly. While using fiction as an escape from reality is incredibly rewarding on its own, what’s even better is when a novel’s lessons lift from the pages and inform our lives with renewed compassion.

On the surface, The Leavers is a novel about a mother and son who are separated by forces more powerful than their blood bond. Deming is a good kid gro
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Play Book Tag: The Leavers - Lisa Ko - 2.5 stars rounded to 3. 2 30 Feb 24, 2018 08:29AM  
I'm the author of THE LEAVERS, a novel that won the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction and was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award in Fiction. Set in New York and China, THE LEAVERS follows one young man's search for his mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant who disappears when he's 11 years old, after which he is adopted by a white family. It's the story of one mother a ...more
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“Everyone had stories they told themselves to get through the days.” 14 likes
“It was that kind of mindfuck: to be too visible and invisible at the same time, in the ways it mattered the most.” 10 likes
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serie complet | Seraph of the End | Jane Clifton