The Leavers by Lisa Ko


Originally Published: May 02, 2017

“She wasn’t one of those TV moms, always hugging their kids or watching them with bemused smiles, but insisted on holding his hand when they crossed a busy street.”

Never rely on anyone else to give you things you could get yourself.”

“He didn’t want her to be dead, never ever, but it seemed preferable, in a fucked-up way, to having her leave without a goodbye.”

“But when people called him amazing he basked in it, couldn’t sleep, reviewing the compliments over and over in his mind.”

“You had to hunt for her beauty, might not even catch it at first.

“The word condensed reminded him of the cans of milk his mother had bought as a treat, a drizzle of sugared glue.”

“He was forced to keep a straight face, but it felt like he was being skinned alive.”

“If he held everyone at arm’s length, it wouldn’t hurt as much when they disappeared.”

“Instead of friends, Kay and Peter had books they read in bed at night.”

“If a woman was unmarried it was her fault for being ugly or independent; if a woman was too devoted to her husband it was her fault for being mushy and desperate; if a husband had a girl on the side it was the wife’s fault for driving him away and both the mistress and wife’s faults for letting themselves get taken advantage of.”

“If he made himself unavailable she would call, like bringing an umbrella for insurance against the rain.”

“Better to be the one who leaves than the one who’s left behind.”

“It was a story not intended to be sad, only true, but it made me so damn sad I couldn’t find the right words to say, the comfort and sympathy that was supposed to come naturally to women.

“Be strong, I told myself, though I wasn’t sure what that meant anymore.”

“People don’t want to go out in the rain, though what’s wrong with them, are they allergic to life?

“You could play it one way and play it another, the same note sounding different depending on how you decided to hear it. You could try to do all the right things and still feel wrong inside.

“It was a funny thing, forgiveness. You could spend years being angry with someone and then realize you no longer felt the same, that your usual mode of thinking had slipped away when you weren’t noticing.”


“One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to her job at a nail salon—and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left mystified and bereft. Eventually adopted by a pair of well-meaning white professors, Deming is moved from the Bronx to a small town upstate and renamed Daniel Wilkinson. But far from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his adoptive parents’ desire that he assimilate with his memories of his mother and the community he left behind. Told from the perspective of both Daniel—as he grows into a directionless young man—and Polly, Ko’s novel gives us one of fiction’s most singular mothers. Loving and selfish, determined and frightened, Polly is forced to make one heartwrenching choice after another. Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid examination of borders and belonging. It’s a moving story of how a boy comes into his own when everything he loves is taken away, and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of the past.”

(via OverDrive)


Fiction, Literature

My Rating:

★★★★☆ 4.5/5

7 thoughts on “My Favorite Quotes From… The Leavers by Lisa Ko

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