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“The Leavers” by Lisa Ko

3.75 out of 4 stars

“I didn’t forget about you, I was surviving”

Deming Guo and Daniel Wilkinson are the same person. We are first introduced to Deming by him being abandoned by his birth mother, Polly, when he was only eleven years old. She went to work one day at the nail salon in New York City and never returned. Deming was left with Leon, his “stepfather”, Vivian, his “aunt”, and Michael, his “cousin”. The quotations are due to the fact that Polly actually never married Leon but they all lived together in one room so they felt like family. Vivian and Leon felt it was best to sign rights for Deming over to the adoption agency because they could not afford to give Deming a good life. In a split second his life was crumbling below him.

Next we meet Daniel. He lives in a slow suburb in upstate New York and lives with his adopted parents, Peter and Kay who are both teachers and run a tight ship.  He finds himself struggling to find his place being Chinese American in such a white bred small town. Peter and Kay do not know if they should try to push him to be an “all American boy” or rather let him struggle on his own to find what he likes.

This book was touching to me because I had recently lost my mother and this story tells about a boy’s unconditional love for someone who he believes left him. He cannot continue on with who he is until he knows where he came from. He must see his mom again. It really spoke to me just how special that blood bond is and it really can’t be shaken no matter the deep hurt.

Also, this tale is extremely relevant with what is going on in the political world. The reader later learns that Polly didn’t run away she was actually deported. With all that is going on with our new President, Donald Trump, and his Immigration policies it is definitely poignant to read a first hand interpretation of what is like to be an illegal immigrant with a child born in America and the cruel punishments that can pull the rug from under you.

All in all a very intellectually and emotionally stimulating book (very hard to be both but this book did that). Kudos to Lisa Ko for putting together such a powerful read that was subtle enough in its message that it did not seem abrasive while reading but actually pulled at my heart strings that I, myself, felt like I was in the Guo family.

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