Steeped in atmosphere and mystery, this poignant portrait of motherhood and belonging will have you turning pages.
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Jasmine Yang arrives in New York City from her rural Chinese village without money or family support, fleeing a controlling husband, on a desperate search for the daughter who was taken from her at birth—another female casualty of China’s controversial One Child Policy. But with her husband on her trail, the clock is ticking, and she’s forced to make increasingly risky decisions if she ever hopes to be reunited with her daughter.
Meanwhile, publishing executive Rebecca Whitney seems to have it all: a prestigious family name and the wealth that comes with it, a high-powered career, a beautiful home, a handsome husband, and an adopted Chinese daughter she adores. She’s even hired a nanny to help her balance the demands of being a working wife and mother. But when an industry scandal threatens to jeopardize not only Rebecca’s job but her marriage, this perfect world begins to crumble and her role in her own family is called into question.
The Leftover Woman finds these two unforgettable women on a shocking collision course. Twisting and suspenseful and surprisingly poignant, it's a profound exploration of identity and belonging, motherhood and family. It is a story of two women in a divided city—separated by severe economic and cultural differences yet bound by a deep emotional connection to a child.
The Leftover Woman
May 6, 2022
My beloved, I understand that forgiveness may not be possible. Some deeds cannot be undone. I took someone essential from you that last tragic evening—the blood, so much blood. My hands will never be clean again no matter how hard I scrub. What I was capable of then was only limited by my desire, and my desire could consume the world.
Yet now, so many years later, I write to you because we are both ink and paper to each other. I have marked you as you have marked me, and you are written into the language of my soul. When you think of me, you must only remember glimpses, snapshots taken from a speeding train that you then try to piece into a cohesive narrative. Please, let me construct my truth for you, flawed though it must be. My only hope is your understanding, not in the sense of compassion but simple comprehension.
There is a question that I’m sure you’ve asked yourself again and again, lying alone in your bed, thinking of me. This is my answer. And after you have heard it, I hope that, perhaps, you will come to me.
I confess I have a daydream of you.
One day, there is a knock on my door. It is raining. My head snaps up, my heart flutters. I close my eyes, afraid of the hope that rushes through my body like wine. I make myself take a careful step to the door, and then another. I am dizzy but I must not fall.
Through the glass, I make out a dark figure outside, carrying an umbrella, because in your thoughtful way, you are always prepared. A halo of light illuminates the rain cascading over you. Your jaw is clenched as you peer through the windowpane. You too are apprehensive. You don’t know if you should have come.
I hurry to unlock the door before you can flee. My hands fumble with the knob and finally, I cast it open. We stare at one another a long moment. Despite all our sorrows, despite the days that have passed, we recognize each other. I think you’re the most wondrous thing I’ve ever seen. I restrain myself, though. I must not frighten you more than I already have. A few hot tears escape. I dash them away.
Your breath catches. A smile touches your eyes; a miracle.
You step across my threshold.
Why I love it
BOTM Editorial Team
I love a good family drama where the most intimate parts of a character are exposed by familial dynamics. The Leftover Woman is steeped in these dynamics, perfectly set up for me to devour it—but Jean Kwok didn’t stop there. She throws in a mystery too, layering this story with added depths.
First, we meet Jasmine, a Chinese immigrant in 2007 New York. She’s come to the United States to reunite with the daughter taken from her by China’s One Child Policy. Jumping ahead 15 years, Rebecca—a high-powered publishing executive—enters the fold. The book moves between these two timelines, uncovering both women’s secrets as we go. Through Jasmine’s days of searching and nights at grimy clubs in Chinatown, we learn there are plenty of unexpected obstacles in her way. Meanwhile, Rebecca’s seemingly perfect life—enviable husband and a beautiful adopted daughter—begins to fracture after an industry scandal calls everything she knows into question.
The Leftover Woman is a heart-racing and touching story about the lengths mothers will go to for their families, starring two exceptional women who have more in common than at first glance. Kwok’s skills are on full display as each page brims with suspense, heartache, and love. I implore you to pick up The Leftover Woman this month—its emotionally resonant ending will leave you full of hope.
Member ratings (3,076)
Hope Mills , NC
I loved this book. Jasmine was amazing. This was a shocking story and then knowing that Lucy was really Jasmine and how she stayed close to Fiona. I’m glad Fiona finally knew who her real mother was.
Chula Vista, CA
Overall I really enjoyed the novel and it held my attention throughout. The last third of the novel felt both rushed and unrealistic. That didn’t ruin it for me, but it could have been so much more.
This book touches upon China "one child policy". The two women are different in every way including looks, where they are from, & social status. Undocumented immigrant vs a person that is established!
I enjoyed this well written story about 2 tenacious & inspiring mothers who don't know each other but are connected. It is a tale of sacrifice & love, & being a mother, I connected w/ these characters
The last chapter was my favorite; great ending. Such a heartbreaking story that had me feeling every emotion. At times I was torn between the two characters; not sure who I was rooting for. Great read