Book Review - The Leavers by Lisa Ko
I first picked up this book about a month ago, I read about five chapters and I just wasn't getting into it. Sometimes that happens. You have to read the right book at the right time or it just doesn't resonate with you. I had heard a lot of good things about this book, it had won awards, I knew I needed to set this one down and come back to it later. Fast forward a month, I'm now making regular drives back and forth between Chicago and Bloomington, IN - I thought I might try listening to this one to see if I could get lost in the story through a narrator.
It worked! I really enjoyed this story the second time around - and it turned out to be a timely book as President Trump moved to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a piece legislation that the Obama administration passed in 2012 that enables illegal immigrants who entered the USA as minors to be eligible for a work permit and a 2-year delay from deportation (this is a quick and dirty definition to give you the gist.) In the middle of reading this book, President Trump announces that he will end DACA and thousands of people gathered in Chicago to protest the decision.
The main story is about Deming Guo, a young boy born in the United States to an illegal immigrant from China. One day he goes to school and when he returns his mother is missing. His mother's boyfriend and his sister cannot afford to take care of him so several months after his mother's disappearance, they put him into the foster care system, where he is eventually adopted by an American couple. About a decade later, an old friend contacts him with information about his birth mother. He begins to wonder what actually happened to his mother and why she left him/disappeared.
I think the reason I couldn't get into it at first was that it read a little bit like a mystery - and just a so/so one. It was a "what happened to the mother?!" sort of plot. But as the story progressed, it delved into much more important and weighty topics: racism, immigration, adoption, cultural sensitivity, addiction, parental relationships, friendships, and more. It is so much more than a mystery, although it does come back to what happened to the mother and it is tragic, heartbreaking, and relevant to our current politics. If you have an opinion about immigration, and especially if you don't, you should read this book.
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