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The Leavers (National Book Award Finalist)

A Novel

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.



Named a Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed, Bustle, and Electric Literature

“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. 

From Publishers Weekly

Feb 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.

Customer Reviews

Attention to detail

This book was alternately too focused on detailed descriptions- I skipped several - and didn’t connect other important details. These two combined to distract my enjoyment of the book enough I wouldn’t recommend it.

Finding Home

Yo shows us a myriad number of places, all exquisitely drawn, but it is in her ability to show us that finally, or gradually which might be more to the truth, understanding the calm center within us is when we can finally go home.

Outstanding book

This is a rich book. It's the kind of book that takes you to different places allows you to see and feel and smell the places and the characters, to cry and feel disappointment, relief and happiness. I highly recommend it.

The Leavers (National Book Award Finalist)
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Fiction & Literature
  • Published: May 02, 2017
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books
  • Seller: Workman Publishing Co., Inc.
  • Print Length: 352 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings