Last Updated on September 4, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 740
Deming Guo / Daniel Wilkinson
The main character in Lisa Ko's novel The Leavers is Deming Guo (later Daniel Wilkinson), a Chinese American boy who is born in Manhattan but returned to his mother's city—Minjiang, China—when she is unable to care for him. Deming lives with his mother in New York during the first year of his life but is sent to live with his grandfather after his first birthday. He remains in China until he is returned to New York and his mother one month after his sixth birthday. Deming's mother disappears after he has lived with her for several years (the point in time at which the novel begins), and after a short period he is sent to foster care before being adopted by a white couple, the Wilkinsons, who change his name to Daniel. Deming, now Daniel, remains with them for the remainder of his childhood; by the time he becomes a young adult, Daniel is very confused about his identity and makes a number of poor life decisions before finally giving in to his urge to try and find his birth mother.
Peilan Guo / Polly Guo
Deming's birth mother is named Peilan, or Polly—Peilan being her legal name and Polly being the name she goes by in America. At the beginning of the novel, Polly and Deming live with Polly's boyfriend, Leon, and his sister and nephew; they have become an extended family and are quite happy. However, Polly is offered a job in Florida and wants to relocate, taking Deming and her extended family with her; her boyfriend and his family don't want to leave, and neither does Deming, who won't leave without Leon's nephew, Michael. This leads to a confrontation, which precedes Polly's disappearance.
Leon, who works in a slaughterhouse, is Polly's boyfriend. He offers to marry Polly, but she can't decide whether to accept his offer even after she has said yes. Leon suffers from health problems as a result of his work, which is part of the reason why Polly is ambivalent about marrying him.
Vivian Chen is Leon's sister and is good friends with Polly while they live together. After Polly disappears, Vivian and Leon attempt to care for Deming, but Vivian finally surrenders Deming to social services when she decides that they don't have enough money to continue looking after him.
Michael Chen is Vivian's son and Deming's best friend while the families live together. Michael loses touch with Deming after Deming is surrendered to social services but is able to find Deming, who is now Daniel, later on and reestablish their friendship. Michael is one of the only people whom Daniel trusts and accepts unconditionally.
While in China, Deming lives with his grandfather, Yi Gong, in Minjiang, Fuzhou Province, until Yi Gong suddenly dies of a heart attack. Polly is heartbroken when she learns of her father's death, as she had believed she would see him again in...
(The entire section contains 740 words.)
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