Goodreads Synopsis: 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.
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.
I had a really hard time rating this book, and writing this review because it’s not an easy book to sum up.
Starting out I was really drawn in by the prose, I liked the writing style even though I found the actual story a little slow. In fact I didn’t actually get into the story until I was around 100 pages in. I think part of the turning point for me was reading the chapters from the POV of the main character’s mother, Peilan. She was a really fascinating character, and she was really easy to empathize with. Unlike Deming, our main character, whom I found to be just a little too passive. I had a hard time liking him, even though I understood his character and wanted things to go well for him. The Leavers was a strange read for me.
I think this book was a really powerful read from the standpoint of how it talked about immigration, and I really appreciated that part of the story. Part of me wishes the book had been entirely about Deming’s mom. I really would have liked to know more about her life.
In the end I gave this book 3.5 stars, but 4 stars on Goodreads.