Ella Mc's book blog. Brand new 2018 - Only books read after 1st January 2018
"...to acknowledge his mother's regret meant
he had to think of what her leaving had done to him..."
I'd guessed The Leavers would be an emotional read for me, but I read things that hit close to home often. This one felt like it both got into and came from somewhere deep inside my bones.
To keep me out of this as much as possible, suffice it to say that my life has a lot of parallels to Deming Guo's. I was/am primed to be completely on the side of the child (Deming) here. I knew that going in. I was talking back aloud to the book when Polly Guo (Deming's mom) started telling her story.
Lisa Ko's talent is such that I shut up fairly quickly. She brought me around. She made me feel for everyone involved. Left to my own devices, without such nuanced and honest emotional portrayals, I would have actively hated Polly Guo. I would have made every excuse for Deming's behavior. (OK, I'm still going to make excuses for his young behavior.) The adoptive parents weren't as well fleshed out, but this was not their story. I'll guess some adoptive parents have trouble with this book, but Deming's feelings are true to my experience at least. He loves everyone and wants to please everyone. When you're the kid who is desperately needed by the parents who choose you, it can get sticky. When you need to know your origin story and your parents can't tell it or identify with it, that can cause ruptures and resentment on everyone's part. When all of your parents crowd into a space that's meant for a smaller group, the conflict can get excruciating. Meanwhile, adopted kids are told how lucky and unconditionally loved they are - all the time, when in fact, that's not always the way it feels.
The real gift Ko gives us is the lack of a wonderfully huge bow at the end of this novel. The answer lies simply in finally figuring out who we, as characters or people, are and finally allowing ourselves to be OK with that.
It turns out I could have saved myself years of therapy if this book had appeared somewhere in the 80s as opposed to last year.