REVIEW: The Leavers, Lisa Ko #BLOGTOUR

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

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.

The Leavers is a book that intricately deals with the topics of identity and belonging. After his mother disappears, Deming Guo is adopted by Kay and Peter, a well-meaning couple of white academics who do all they can to encourage him to assimilate into white, suburban life - they change his name to Daniel Wilkinson, force him to drink the milk that gives him stomach aches and discourage him from speaking the language he shared with his mother.
But Deming is not a clean slate. It is not possible to wipe all that he is away, and replace it with a new version that shares no similarities with the old. He ends up being effectively torn in half by these two warring identities and soon comes to view them as two different people: Daniel, the person who he is now, and Deming, who left with his mother.
It is a deeply emotional tale, with a definite air of quiet sadness to nearly every scene. Deming, and in later scenes his mother Polly, feel human and I suppose that only adds to emotional impact of The Leavers; their tale is not unique and one which is undoubtedly experienced by illegal immigrants and their children every single day.
And I cried. I did not think I was going to, but I did.
I wanted to cuddle little Deming, both as a child and an adult. For a large portion of his life, he'd been fighting a constant war within himself and despite the fact that he had Kay, Peter and a group of friends around him, he seemed to lack a working and effective support-system.
Instead from just focussing on Deming, The Leavers also goes back in time to weave his story in with his mother's. Through Polly, Lisa Ko portrays a realistically heartbreaking picture of the lives of illegal immigrants in America, the ones who leave their homes after hearing stories of better lives and end up being repeatedly taken advantage of and treated so damn cruelly.
As tensions rise in the States thanks to their new arsehole of a President, The Leavers becomes a more relevant novel now than ever. It is important book for people to read that have lost sight of the fact that these people are, in fact, just that. I suppose that it is easy with the constant news stories for people to lose a little bit of perspective and empathy, and for that reason, The Leavers is an incredibly important read that absolutely everyone needs to read.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to NetGalley, Dialogue Books and Little, Brown Book Group for sending me a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review. And for allowing me to partake in this blog tour (I love you)

Head on over to for this book, as well as all of the others featured in my reviews, complete with the added bonuses of free worldwide shipping and bringing a little joy to my life.

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