Kwok always writes thought-provoking and powerful books and her latest adds to her collection.
I especially enjoyed the intermixing of her two characters' lives. One, a Chinese woman relentlessly doing everything to get her child back is juxtaposed against a white woman who has her own struggles. The story is so sensitively written that it's easy to empathize with all that's going on.
Kwok's rendering of the restrictions placed on China's childbearing women blend the plight of both women's challenges. Well done!
The Leftover Woman by Jean Kwok is about Jasmine Yang, a young girl from a rural Chinese village. She was sold to an abusive man at a very young age. She escapes through a human trafficking ring and lands in New York. She soon encounters Rebecca Whitney, an executive at a publishing house in New York. These two women from two very different walks of life are soon connected. If you enjoy mysteries, thrillers, and stories told from multiple points of view, The Leftover Woman is perfect for you. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advanced e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
I really really enjoyed this - thought-provoking, interesting, and despite generally knowing what was going on/what was going to happen the whole time, I was impressed by the suspense and intrigue the author was able to build. Several little twists and developments in the story kept me on my toes and wanting to continue turning the pages. Would highly recommend.
I was majorly disappointed by this book. I loved Kwok’s GIRL IN TRANSLATION because it made me feel seen. This book made me cringe with how many things the book got wrong. All the depictions of race, immigration, and sex work did not sit well with me — it really detracted from the whole plot for me.
It felt like this book was written to appease conservative white people who want to be reassured that Chinese immigrants are good people. Here are my issues with the book in detail:
- the trope of immigrants wanting nothing for themselves but something better for their children. LIES AND TROPE-Y. i’m done with this kind of immigration story bc immigrants want and desire! that’s why they immigrated
- the part where brandon professes his love for china and how he would never be loved back “bc of the color of my skin” BITCH YOU AIN’T GOT NO COLOR YOU ARE A WHITE MAN. why oh why would kwok write this. why give a white character those lines.
- i didn’t like that Jasmine saw her work at Opium as so shameful and disgusting. “instead of developing myself with art or English or cooking lessons, I used my appearance to make fast money” WTF why the slight towards sex workers… especially since some sex workers see that there isn’t any other choice. why the fucking shade and nose-turn.
- shallow & stereotypical descriptions of strip club and people who work there. seen through such a male gaze too. when jasmine first walks into Opium, she calls it “Asians exploiting Asians”…dude what the hell. what kind of internalized fuckery is this
- “i’ll be back someday and next time, i’ll do it legally.” WHAT THE GENUINE FUCK why the inclusion about doing it legally. asians make up a huge part of the undocumented population in the US. why the rub about needed to do it “right?” that was not necessary.
- lastly, i need to talk about the title. in chinese, 剩女 “leftover women” is a phrase used to refer to women who are 30 or older and unmarried. this is the context. why does Kwok not contextualize this? jasmine is 26 and unmarried, yes, but she has agency over her choice to leave her husband and so why adopt this hurtful term and play the victim? i’m still hashing this one out but i feel like using this term as the title for such a whitewashed book is an injustice in itself.
i’ll end here with the one quote that i liked from anthony talking about jasmine’s secrets: “when you love the house, you must love the crows on the roof as well.”
The Leftover Woman is a great story about the lengths a mom will go to in order to provide the best she can to her child. Fascinating characters in a story with lots of twists! Thank you NetGalley for the advanced digital copy.
The Leftover Woman was an interesting book that tells the story in essentially dual POVs of a Chinese woman named Jasmine and an affluent white woman named Rebecca. While the end had me hooked, I sort of had to trudge through the beginning of this book to make it to the "thriller" part. I did enjoy reading it, enjoyed the big twist, but it felt like there were so many holes that were just filled by an info dump way too far into the book to be acceptable. I enjoyed the character of Fifi so much as well as Jasmine, but it felt very repetitive at times. I also could not stand Rebecca for much of the book, her making such terrible choices for herself and her family. That being said, I am glad that I read the book because it was interesting to read about what lengths some might go to get and keep a family. It is also important to read books written by under represented authors, so I was appreciative to get the opportunity to do so with this book. Overall, I'd give it a 3/5 stars.
Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book. All opinions within this review are my own.
I've enjoyed Jean Kwok's books since I received an advanced copy of Girl in Translation years ago. It earned a rightful place on my top 10 favorites of all time. Obviously, I have to always read her latest.
In The Leftover Woman, two women's lives intertwine over one child. Rebecca is a powerful New York publishing executive, raising her adopted Chinese daughter in New York City. Jasmine, a poor rural Chinese woman, has come to New York illegally in search of the daughter she had to give up for adoption. As the women's stories intersect, the connection to the child that binds them could tear everything apart.
As usual, I loved Jean Kwok's writing. Her books are always a one night read for me, not because of the length, but because I have to stay up until I have finished. With The Leftover Woman, I kept thinking, "I'll put it down next character switch," but each time I just had to read one more chapter. While the reader assumes that Fifi, the adopted daughter of Rebecca, is likely Jasmine's biological child, the story in how they relate keeps you interested.
Rounded up from 3.5 stars.
The Leftover Woman goes back and forth between the points of view of two vastly different women - Rebecca and Jasmine. Rebecca is a white woman who has adopted a Chinese daughter and is incredibly wealthy, facing nearly unrelatable problems in life. Jasmine has no documents in a foreign country and is forced to do what is necessary to survive after escaping a bad marriage in China.
Their lives collide, and there are explosions abound.
Overall, the book was slightly disappointing after chapters and chapters of build-up, but the writing was well-done. I didn't struggle to read this book and I read it quite quickly.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an eARC of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review!
The Leftover Woman is not exactly a thriller in the true sense of the genre , but it IS mysterious, especially the way it is told. The first few parts lay out the story from 2 POV's, Jasmine and Rebecca. You KNOW somehow their paths will cross but just not where or when. This is a family drama with elements of mystery and influence of outside factions to create a story that indeed had be riveted
Story told through two perspectives, a Chinese woman whose baby girl was stolen at birth and the American woman who adopts the stolen child. The author does a good job making both characters sympathetic.
Poignant, excellently written, and heart wrenching. A story that gives a glimpse into aspects of Chinese culture, immigrant struggles, and a fighting spirit.
I had the highest hopes for this book; the subject matter and synopsis sounded exactly like the kind of work I enjoy. But unfortunately, after multiple attempts at reading this one, I had to stop around 30%. I do not finish books I’m not enjoying. The dialogue felt forced and ruined my ability to get into the story.
An engrossing read that examines what it means to be a mother and how far you'd go for your children. I vacillated between rooting for one character over another, which made for a compelling story.
Sadly, this one did not live up to expectations. I was really looking forward to this book, but I think it would have been stronger if it weren't framed as a thriller. I found the "thriller" aspects to be too predictable and distracted from what could have been a stronger novel about mother/daughter relationships, power and privilege. (And also, I thought those themes were described too explicitly toward the end of the book. Readers should be able to get there on their own.) But I recognize those are problems with what *I* wanted out of the book, so maybe you will feel differently!
Jean Kwok's The Leftover Woman weaves a compelling story of two women from vastly different worlds whose lives become unexpectedly intertwined. Jasmine, a resourceful Chinese immigrant struggling to find her stolen daughter in New York City, and Fiona, a privileged American housewife grappling with loneliness and family secrets, both face challenges that push them to their limits.
Dual Narratives: Kwok's decision to narrate the story from both Jasmine and Fiona's perspectives is a masterstroke. It allows for nuanced character development and deepens the reader's empathy for both women. Each character's struggles feel distinct and authentic, offering contrasting glimpses into the immigrant experience and the complexities of wealth and privilege.
Engaging Plot: The mystery surrounding Jasmine's daughter and Fiona's family secrets keeps the pages turning. Twists and turns unfold steadily, maintaining suspense and intrigue throughout the novel.
Rich Themes: The Leftover Woman tackles diverse themes such as cultural clash, motherhood, the human cost of ambition, and the resilience of the human spirit. These themes are woven into the narrative seamlessly, prompting reflection without feeling heavy-handed.
Areas for Improvement:
Pacing: At times, the pacing can feel a bit slow, particularly in the beginning chapters. While establishing the characters and their situations is essential, a tighter opening would have further bolstered the story's momentum.
Plot Predictability: Some of the plot twists, while initially surprising, may feel predictable for seasoned readers of thrillers and mysteries.
Characterization: While both Jasmine and Fiona are well-developed and relatable, some supporting characters could have benefited from deeper exploration. Their motivations and roles in the story sometimes feel ambiguous.
Despite its minor shortcomings, The Leftover Woman is a thoroughly engrossing read. Kwok's captivating prose, vivid character portraits, and timely themes make it a compelling exploration of identity, resilience, and the enduring power of family. While seasoned thriller readers might find the plot twists somewhat familiar, the emotional depth and complex tapestry of characters will reward readers seeking a thought-provoking and captivating story.
Final Verdict: A gripping narrative with well-developed characters and thought-provoking themes, The Leftover Woman earns a solid 4-star rating. Recommended for fans of character-driven dramas, mysteries with a touch of suspense, and stories that explore the immigrant experience and the complexities of modern womanhood.
I really enjoyed this book! Dual PoV with a lot of twists and turns that kept me getting back to it asap. Interesting to read different cultural perspectives as well. Recommend!!
An overwhelmingly emotional book that I could not put down! I felt so many emotions with this amazing story of resilience. It explores adoption, identity, devotion and motherhood by telling a story based on the controversial One Child Policy in China and the struggles of those gaining illegal entrance to the United States.
The characters of Jasmine and Rebecca portray strong women who know what they want in life and are not afraid to go after their goals, no matter the cost. I was very inverted in the emotions these women felt throughout this book, they were raw and so well described I felt the heartbreak and hope for their futures myself. These women come from different countries and even more different backgrounds, yet, even with their distinct differences, they are strongly alike. Their main concern in life, above all else, is to keep their daughter safe.
The twists in this book are well placed and fabulous! The storyline is very well-conceived and perfectly written to keep the reader wondering what will happen next. I hope you enjoy the drama and suspense in this book as much as I did!
I am voluntarily writing this review and am very grateful to William Morrow and Netgalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary digital copy of this engaging book.
I just couldn’t get into this book despite being very excited to read it. It was rather slow moving and the mystery element just wasn’t there for me. There was just not much in this novel that really left an impact with me. 2.5 stars ⭐️.
A family drama that completely overwhelmed me while I was reading Jasmine's story. An intense read but one I enjoyed and would recommend for book club readers.
A solid read, but his book would be better served if it was not classified as a mystery/thriller. Yes, there are some twists, but this book is better described as contemporary/general or women's fiction. This is an entertaining but thought-provoking story of motherhood, immigration, racism, adoption, and more, and the "mystery" aspect of it is overall minimal.