The Leavers

A Novel

By Lisa Ko

Published by Algonquin Books

“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.” —Ann Patchett,  author of Commonwealth

Lisa Ko’s powerful debut, The Leavers, is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.
 
One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to her job at a nail salon—and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. 
With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left mystified and bereft. Eventually adopted by a pair of well-meaning white professors, Deming is moved from the Bronx to a small town upstate and renamed Daniel Wilkinson. But far from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his adoptive parents’ desire that he assimilate with his memories of his mother and the community he left behind. 
Told from the perspective of both Daniel—as he grows into a directionless young man—and Polly, Ko’s novel gives us one of fiction’s most singular mothers. Loving and selfish, determined and frightened, Polly is forced to make one heartwrenching choice after another. 
Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid examination of borders and belonging. It’s a moving story of how a boy comes into his own when everything he loves is taken away, and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of the past. 
 
 
Lisa Ko’s fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2016, Apogee Journal, Narrative, Copper Nickel, the Asian Pacific American Journal, and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Writers OMI at Ledig House, the Jerome Foundation, and Blue Mountain Center, among others. She was born in New York City, where she now lives. Visit her at lisa-ko.com.
 

$25.95 (US)

Product Details
Categories
Number of pages
352
Publication date
May 02, 2017
ISBN
9781616206888
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Meet the Author
Review quotes
"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.”
—Ann Patchett
 
"Courageous, sensitive, and perfectly of this moment: The Leavers is everything I could hope for in a winner of the Bellwether Prize."
—Barbara Kingsolver
 
“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
 
“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.”
—Time.com
 
“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.”
Buzzfeed
 
“…The Leavers is a masterful debut novel that examines borders and belonging, and the universal desire for love.”
Redbook.com
 
“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.”
—Bustle.com
 
“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.”
—TheMillions.com
 
“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.”
Nylon Magazine
 
“This timely novel depicts the heart- and spirit-breaking difficulties faced by illegal immigrants with meticulous specificity.”
Kirkus Reviews
 
“skillfully written…those who are interested in closely observed, character-driven fiction will want to leave room for The Leavers on their shelves.”
Booklist
 
"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.”
Foreword Reviews