The Leavers

The Leavers: A Novel by Lisa KoOrder now

Published by Algonquin Books

  • PEN/Bellwether Award for Socially Engaged Fiction
  • National Book Award for Fiction Finalist
  • PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction Finalist
  • Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award
  • New York City Book Award for Best First Book
  • Asian Pacific American Award for Literature
  • Aspen Words Literary Prize Longlist
  • People, Book of the Week
  • NPR, Best Books of 2017
  • Irish Times, Best International Fiction 2017
  • Paste Magazine, 40 Best Novels of the 2010s
  • Los Angeles Times, Best Books of 2017
  • Electric Literature, 25 Best Novels of 2017
  • O, The Oprah Magazine, Our Favorite Books of 2017
  • Huffington Post, Best Fiction Books of 2017
  • Entertainment Weekly, Best Debut Novels of 2017
  • iBooks, Best Books of 2017
  • Poets & Writers, Best Debut Fiction 2017
  • Christian Science Monitor, 30 Best Books of 2017
  • Redbook, Best Books of Summer 2017
  • Book of the Month Club: May 2017 Selection

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother Polly goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. Left with no one to care for him, eleven-year-old Deming 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.

A vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging,The Leavers is the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away—and how one woman learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

The Leavers was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction and the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Award for Socially Engaged Fiction. It has been translated into five languages.

Praise for The Leavers:

“There was a time I would have called Lisa Ko’s novel beautifully written, ambitious and moving, and all of that is true, but it’s more than that now: if you want to understand a forgotten and essential part of the world we live in, The Leavers is required reading.” —Ann Patchett, author of Commonwealth

“Lisa Ko has created one of the most courageous mother characters in recent memory. Polly is brash, brave and heartbreaking and her ferocity is marvelous to behold. The Leavers is about the bonds between parents and children and the many pulls of home. It was a book I did not want to end.”—Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman

“Courageous, sensitive, and perfectly of this moment.” —Barbara Kingsolver, author of Flight Behavior

“A rich and sensitive portrait of lives lived across borders, cultures, and languages… One of the most engaging, deeply probing, and beautiful books I have read this year.” —Laila Lalami, author of The Moor’s Account

“Ambitious… Lisa Ko has taken the headlines and has reminded us that beyond them lie messy, brave, extraordinary, ordinary lives.” New York Times Book Review

“In [Polly and Deming’s] criss-crossing stories we see how this novel’s unique doubled consciousness is the one way they can be together, and in their struggle to belong, at least to themselves, there is a vision for America big enough to include them when America does not. A bold reinvention of the Asian immigrant novel as great American novel.” —The National Book Foundation

“Dazzling… Filled with exquisite, heartrending details, Ko’s exploration of the often-brutal immigrant experience in America is a moving tale of family and belonging.” People

“This is one of the most ambitious novels of 2017, and it delivers.” Redbook

“[A]n exceptionally well written, fully realized work of art. Ko is so psychologically penetrating, so acute in her passing observations and deft in the quick views she affords of her characters’ inner lives and surroundings, that her skill and empathy give real joy.” Barnes and Noble Review

“Here is imperative reading: a vivid fictional exploration of what it means to belong and what it feels like when you don’t… Ko gives us an unsparing portrait of the resilience and grit it takes to risk everything to break free of tradition and start over in a foreign land.” O, The Oprah Magazine

“A sweeping examination of family…. Ko’s stunning tale of love and loyalty—to family, to country—is a fresh and moving look at the immigrant experience in America, and is as timely as ever.” Publishers Weekly

“Quietly sensational… its underlying themes of displacement and deportation carry deep and desperately urgent resonances far beyond America, and fiction.” The Guardian UK

“Beautifully written and deeply affecting, combining the emotional insight of a great novel with the integrity of long-form journalism.” The Village Voice

“[G]orgeously redemptive… Lisa Ko’s debut novel is an achingly beautiful read about immigration, adoption, and the drive to belong.” The Christian Science Monitor

A debut of quiet force; Ko’s mastery is evident in her effortless sentences, capable of unspooling your heart before you even realized it was wound up.”The Brooklyn Rail

The Leavers offers no easy answers, but at every turn it is skillfully observed and written, sidestepping convenient explanations on the way to nuanced moments of tremendous grace… It is also a paean to the American dream—one that contains a warning of the menace coiled inside. It is an essential document.” Nashville Scene

“Lisa Ko is a subtle, intelligent writer… A beautiful, daring debut.” —KQED Arts

“A rich, multifaceted portrait of displacement and the trauma of not belonging.” The Independent UK

“Deeply generous and empathetic. Ko explores the nuances of familiar relationships with a careful, challenging intentionality.” Seattle Book Review

“One of 2017’s most anticipated fiction debuts.” —TIME

“A must-read.” Marie Claire

“The year’s powerful debut you won’t want to miss.” —Bustle

The Leavers, which won the PEN/Bellwether Prize, may be a work of fiction, but the plot twists mirror America’s own urgent and timely political landscape.” W Magazine

“What Ko seeks to do with The Leavers is illuminate the consequence of [deportation] facilities, and of the deportation machine as a whole, on individual lives. Ko’s book arrives at a time when it is most needed; its success will be measured in its ability to move its readership along the continuum between complacency and advocacy.” The Los Angeles Review of Books

“Ko’s unforgettable narrative voice is a credit to the moving stories of immigration, loss, recovery, and acceptance that feel particularly suited for our times.” —NYLON Magazine

“[A]n impressive literary debut…. Ko does a wonderful job of crafting sympathetic characters. The Leavers is never sentimental or cloying.” South China Morning Post

[Ko’s] work gives poignant voice to the fact the U.S. can, and must, write a better immigration system.” Ms. 

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