The Leavers by Lisa Ko | A Tragic Story of Deming Guo or a New Life of Daniel Wilkinson?

This was an incredible start to the month of May! I loved this book so much!

It is a captivating life story of Deming Guo and his mother’s immigration into the United States of America. The story telling is not linear, we jump back and forth between characters and between different time periods.

We see the story from Daniel Wilkinson’s point of view, of him struggling to understand what he wants from life, who he wants to be, and then we jump back in time when Daniel was still Deming Guo, living in a poor part of New York with his mom, her boyfriend, his sister and nephew in the tiniest apartment.

30753987One 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.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s 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.

This powerful debut is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.

GoodReads  |  Amazon  |  BookDepository

Covering many current problems, from immigration to social issues between children and adults, the story will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions! Let’s see what was so good about it that it deserved a full 5-star rating without any doubts!


1 – The characters were not flawless! More than that they made some very big mistakes in their lives. This made them astonishingly real, someone who I could have known, someone who could have lived next door. They weren’t totally likable, like any other human being. I would sympathize with them at one point of the story and maybe critic and despise their act at the other point, but they made me care and that is what I liked the most!

2 – A hint of mystery. I truly believe that every great book should have just a hint of mystery in it! What happened to Deming’s mother? Did she leave him? Was she killed? What made her leave her son and never come back?

These were the questions flooding my head while reading the story from Deming’s / Daniel’s point of view. I craved for more information during the entire book, making it a super quick read as I flew through the pages looking for answers.

3 – The matter of immigration and how it affected the community and social life of Americans and immigrants seeking for a better life.

Immigration is never easy as it is. You need to drop everything and start from scratch somewhere new, somewhere where you don’t know anyone, sometimes don’t even speak the language. There is no need to make it even harder than that. But unfortunately, most of the times, there are dozens and hundreds of challenges created by different governments, by people around you that make you feel like you’ll never overcome them, there never will be a “better life” you were so hardly looking for.

4 – Finally, a way to fit in. Deming is a Chinese boy brought from Fuzhou to New York City, lately adopted by an american couple who withdrew him from the “safer” multicultural environment in the Bronx and tried to make him an “American boy” with new name, new clothes, new town and new life.

We never want to disappoint our parents or people we love, and Deming tries hard to fit in his new clothes of Daniel Wilkinson. He makes mistakes, he doesn’t know what he wants from life and he tries to please everyone around him, but we all know – that is an impossible task.

Thank you NetGalley and Algonquin Books for the ARC of this incredible book! As always, all views, thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

I highly recommend it to anyone looking for some new books in Adult or General Fiction genres. It was a full 5-star read for me and I couldn’t be happier for starting this month on such a high note (hopefully it will stay this way).

My Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ / 5

Let me know in the comments down below if you enjoy reading General Fiction from time to time and what themes you usually look for in this kind of book!

With love,



2 thoughts on “The Leavers by Lisa Ko | A Tragic Story of Deming Guo or a New Life of Daniel Wilkinson?

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