Is it easier to be the one who leaves or the one left behind?
Eleven-year-old Deming Guo is heartbroken when his mother doesn’t come home from work one day. Abandoned, and with no other known family, he is soon adopted by a white middle-class couple, moved from the Bronx to a town upstate, and renamed Daniel Wilkinson. ‘Daniel’ then struggles to settle into his new life whilst holding on to the childhood memories and community he left behind.
The Leavers is told from the perspectives of both Daniel and his mother, Polly. This makes for a particularly interesting read because every time Daniel’s heart is a little bit more broken, we then hear from Polly and more pieces of their story begin to unravel. You go from hating to understanding her and being unsure again in mere minutes.
It’s also a fascinating study of identity. Set in New York and China, we learn of Polly’s quest for a better life for her son – and herself – and the pained steps she takes to ensure that happens. I certainly welled up a couple of times.
The Leavers won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction and was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction. I can already see it being one of my books of the year, on a par with Little Fires Everywhere.
The Leavers is out today. Buy it from Amazon*.
*I was sent a copy of The Leavers for review purposes and all thoughts are my own. This post contains an affiliate link.