The Leavers

The Leavers

A Novel

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"One morning, Deming Guo's mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. 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. Set in New York and China, the Leavers is 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"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2017
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781616206888
Branch Call Number: KO
Characteristics: 338 pages ; 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Apr 02, 2019

THE LEAVERS is an ambitious novel with timely themes. It follows the struggles of 2 main characters: the undocumented Chinese immigrant Peilan/Polly and her son, Deming/Daniel. Their storylines are told to varying degrees of success by author Lisa Ko, and therein lies the book’s main problem for me. Much of the time the writing got in the way of my enjoyment of the book. Of the 2 narratives, Peilan’s/Polly’s came off as more sympathetic and absorbing. Kudos to Lisa Ko for tackling some difficult issues and challenging this reader to think. I just wish I had liked this book more.

Feb 05, 2019

Lisa Ko caught me completely off guard with this eye opener. Timely and heartbreaking as Polly, and illegal Chines Immigrant to the US works to create a safe and loving life for her son, but everything goes awry when ICE pick her up and deports her. Her son's life is totally derailed, adopted by a while set of parents and no way to find his real self or understand what happened. He is isolated and hijacked from his native culture. He is an outsider, lost, and unsure of how to find out what part of him is Chinese and which part is American. What is the future for him if he does not know the past? Parents want a better life for their children but do we do it right or make errors in the process.

Jul 09, 2018

I loved this story of a mom and her son, and all the challenges and difficult choices they both had to make. Polly is just trying to make a better life for herself, and despite her struggles and hardships, she maintains a strong and resilient character. Though Polly and the many friends she makes on her journey, the author shows us the many layers, good and bad, of immigrant culture. In the current political environment, illegal immigrants are seen by some in a very negative light--as criminals, rapists, people wanting to sponge off the US government. But how can we fault people for wanting a better life for themselves and their families?

The Leavers tells the story of Polly, the mom, and her life journey as a young girl from a poor village, then an immigrant in New York, then a businesswoman in China. It also tells the story of her American-born son, who at 11 years old got left behind when Polly got deported and remained unanchored, despite being adopted and well cared-for by a nice white couple in upstate New York. Both mom and son were scarred for life by her capture and deportation, and this is the story of how they learned to live with themselves and their dual identities as Chinese and American.

I highly recommend this book!

Apr 01, 2018

Loved this book, although the first couple chapters was hard for me to get into. It pulls with your emotions of betrayal, abandonment, adoption, culture etc.

Feb 13, 2018

This story is so relevant for today. If you have no future in your native land, and come to the US illegally, you end up living a shadow life. You can’t expect to have much of a future. When Polly leaves China for what she hopes will be a better life in New York City for her and her unborn son, she finds it’s a heck of a hard climb to survive. When she is caught by INS she is sent back to China, and her son eventually ends up being adopted. What happens to the two of them creates a drama that many people are facing.

Jan 04, 2018

What confusion Ms. Ko has about matching technology to actual timeline. It is unbelievable that her editors did not pick up on this!!!

On page 179 Polly "takes out her phone to call Yi Ba" Unfortunate that Ms. Ko has assigned a cell phone to make the call when there were no cell phones 20 years ago. Hard to understand? Believe it or not, kids. There were NO CELL PHONE 20 YEARS AGO.. So.. how would our heroine make a call to China?? Pay phones were still around. Nobody could record the twin towers falling in NYC when it happened even 17 years ago. Why? No cell phones yet and certainly no cell phones with cameras.

So, if Ms. Ko wants to continue her narrative about Daniel's Mom phoning Grandfather in China to find out he has died of a heart attack? It was from a land line or a pay phone. If she whipped out her cell phone, it would have weighed about 3 lbs. They were in their infancy at that point.

Good try, though. Good try.

So read this book with a grain of made up salt. It does not follow any actual timeline.

Oct 29, 2017

Daniel, Deming Guo, was adopted by an American couple under circumstances the reader will much later find out. In the meantime Daniel's life unfolds as he remembers his childhood and those who helped shape his adult life. The author tells her story by taking us deeply into the complexities of an immigrant and their expectations, dreams, and ability to maintain family.
At times I skimmed when the author stayed too long in a situation but overall I found the novel rich in detail and I was easily drawn in.

Oct 03, 2017

Impressive and moving debut novel about a mother and son who are separated. The novel begins with the disappearance of a young Chinese-American's mother, who is in the country illegally. He has no idea what's happened to her and is adopted by a white couple who give him an American name. The novel shifts between the mother's and the son's point of view and takes place over many years and in two countries (China and America). It is a book that feels very much of the moment.

ArapahoeMarina Sep 18, 2017

Ko takes us behind the headlines about ICE raids and deportation to flesh out a moving and mournful tale of a son growing up without a mother, her mystery a constant, gnawing puzzle that colors his whole life.

ArapahoeAnnaL Aug 29, 2017

This is a compelling and sensitive story of a Chinese immigrant and her son. Life becomes complicated and you feel for the boy and eventually for his mother as the story unfolds.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability
Apr 01, 2018

Mya614 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at SL

To Top