The Leavers by Lisa Ko
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've heard rumors that this book is on May's Book of the Month list, so I wanted to make sure to publish my review asap.
Deming is a child when his mother disappears, and not too long after, he is adopted by a childless couple in Upstate New York and renamed Daniel. They don't know the whole story of how he became available for adoption, but neither does Deming, and his entire world that he knows is taken from him. This novel traces the story back to how his mother came to be in New York when he was born (because he is, in fact, an American citizen) and everything that happened to the periphery characters in the meantime.
There is a lot to like about this novel. Lisa Ko is not writing the typical "good immigrant" narrative. Deming's mother suffers from many failures, but so does he. Getting adopted does not save him. Being Chinese does not make him good at math. And living in the United States is not necessarily better. I so appreciated the nuance of the different characters, including the white professors who may not be completely sure adopting a child was the right thing to do! There is also a lot of commentary on identity, how being "from China" means different things to different people, how you don't necessarily escape that identity if you look the part, and finding your own path is a universal struggle.
Thanks to the publisher for providing early access to the title through NetGalley.
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