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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Leftover Woman

By: Jean Kwok

Narrators: Sura Siu, Caroline Hewitt HarperAudio

ISBN: 9780063031463

Publisher: William Morrow

Publication Date: 10/10/2023

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars + (ARC)



"At once a hugely atmospheric and suspenseful mystery and a compelling exploration of motherhood and belonging that packs a profound emotional punch. I couldn’t stop thinking about this book." — Lucy Foley, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Apartment

An evocative family drama and a riveting mystery about the ferocious pull of motherhood for two very different women—from the New York Times bestselling author of Searching for Sylvie Lee and Girl in Translation.

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 desperate 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 Chinese 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.

“A magnetic meditation on secret histories, motherhood, love, and how we show up for each other in the most surprising of ways. A beautiful, propulsive story!” — Laura Dave, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me

"A heart-tugging exploration of love, belonging, and the meaning of family." — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The It Girl.

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My Review

I LOVED THIS BOOK—A show stopper!

New York Times bestselling author Jean Kwok dazzles with her latest evocative and emotional tale, THE LEFTOVER WOMAN — a riveting mystery of two tenacious and fearless inspiring women, both mothers—a story of injustice, abuse, trauma, sacrifice, and love.

Top Books of 2023! Look at this stunning cover! I cannot wait for my hardcover to arrive. Not only is this cover elegant and haunting on the outside—but it is just as exquisite on the inside—a complete package with a fitting title. The author is at the top of her game!

Jasmine Yang comes from a rural Chinese village. She was left on the roadside as a child because she was a girl. The culture/policy would only allow one child per family. Unfortunately, all the families wanted boys to help care for their parents in their old age.

Her aunt and uncle raised her, but she never felt like she belonged or was loved. Then, she was taken in by a controlling, abusive husband when she was 14. When she delivered her beautiful baby girl, her husband, Wen, wanted a boy, and since they were only allowed one child due to overpopulation, he lied and told her she died.

She was heartbroken. Later, she found the emails and learned that her abusive husband (they were not legally married due to her age) had given her up for adoption. Jasmine knows she must find her daughter. Whatever she has to do to escape this monster and find her daughter, Fiona. She will do anything to reunite with her daughter. Jasmine was just an obsession for Wen.

The clues lead to New York City to a successful, wealthy couple power couple. However, to get there, she has to make a deal with the devil to get to America. If she failed to pay, they would sell her into prostitution.

She had to make money and fast. Since she was an illegal immigrant, she had to turn to being a dancer at an Asian strip club and found a nanny job during the day. She did not want to strip, but it was better than prostitution if she did not come up with the money.

She planned and saved working during the day as a nanny and at night as a dancer at Opium. She kept her head down. The parents did not have a clue as she dressed very plainly and did not draw attention to herself. However, she lived in fear daily, fearing Wen would come after her.

In the meantime, we meet Rebecca and Brandon Whitney. Brandon spoke her native language. They adopted a Chinese girl, and Lucy is now their Chinese nanny for five-year-old Fifi.

Rebecca and Brandson seem to have it all with the family name, beautiful home, wealth, and prestige, and Rebecca a high-powered career in the publishing industry. This is so clever! Then, there is a scandal and blackmail, which could destroy Rebecca's career and marriage.

Beautifully told from alternating POVs: Rebecca and Jasmine in four parts. Two mothers from different walks of life with a shared love, their daughter. When the past and present collide, and the connection between Wen and Brandon comes front and center with the two mothers, it is EXPLOSIVE!

"In China, I'd seen posters warning girls of the danger of becoming leftover women, women that no one wanted. Leftover like scraps on a table, uneaten food, both a sacrilege and wasteful, something that should have nourished our country squandered and turned into rubbish: unwarned, purposeless, of no use to anyone. I was a leftover woman, I realized. After everyone else had carved away what they wanted to see in me and taken what they desired, I was all that was left." —Jasmine, THE LEFTOVER WOMAN.

Masterfully crafted, character-driven, and plot-driven, THE LEFTOVER WOMAN is a stunning work of art—a novel of motherhood, class, and culture. The writing is lyrical and heartfelt, and it will break your heart—full of raw emotion, keeping you on the edge of your seat in suspense as to how this could end positively for both mothers.

The author ratchets the suspense as readers try to breathe, hoping for a happy ending. The final Epilogue, told from Fiona's POV, was priceless! I was so worried how this would turn out. Never fear; the author has complete control, and the ending will have you crying tears of joy!

It is an award-winning novel; I cannot wait to see the book played out on the wide screen. WELL DONE! I enjoyed both POVs, both compelling; however, I was drawn more to Jasmine's story (a survivor) and her background, rooting for her all the way! I adored Jasmine, Fiona, and Anthony!

I cannot recommend this masterpiece enough. Get it now! A favorite. It is worth all the hype and then some!

Many thanks to William Morrow for the pleasure of reading an advanced reading copy for an honest review. I also purchased the hardcover copy and the audiobook narrated by Sura Siu and Caroline Hewitt by Harper Audio.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: Oct 10, 2023

My Rating: 5 Stars +

Oct 2023 Must Read Books

Top Books of 2023

Oct Newsletter


A Most Anticipated Book by The New York Times • Elle • TIME • People • New York Post • PopSugar • Goodreads • Literary Hub • Crimereads • LibraryReads • Novel Suspects • and many more!

“A heart-wrenching examination of transracial adoption and its influence in the lives of a Chinese American child and the two mothers who love her. . . . The resulting intersection of their lives makes this book not only a suspenseful read, but also an introspective journey into the bonds of family, country, class, and race."

— Elle Magazine, Best Books of the Year

“The lives of two women — a privileged book editor and a Chinese immigrant navigating Manhattan's underworld — collide in this emotion-packed thriller.”

— People

“Kwok brings her signature lyrical prose to the novel, while suspense simmers in the background.” — Booklist (starred review)

"At once a hugely atmospheric and suspenseful mystery and a compelling exploration of motherhood and belonging that packs a profound emotional punch. I couldn’t stop thinking about this book long after I’d read the final page."

— Lucy Foley, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Guest List and The Paris Apartment

"A heart-tugging exploration of love, belonging and the meaning of family."

— Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The It Girl

"Jean Kwok delivers again with The Leftover Woman—a magnetic meditation on secret histories, motherhood, love, and how we show up for each other in the most surprising of ways. A beautiful, propulsive story!”

— Laura Dave, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me

“A haunting, emotionally powerful story about motherhood, family, oppression, immigration, and power. Kwok is an impressive talent whose books resonate with deeply felt emotion and expertly crafted plotting.”

— Karin Slaughter, New York Times bestselling author of Pieces of Her and the Will Trent series

"Jean Kwok has done it again. Her newest novel will make your heart race as it follows two determined women: one whose choices have been limited, and one who has the world at her feet. Jean’s heroines cross languages, borders, and cultures to collide in a confrontation that leaves blood on their hands. As gorgeous as it is thrilling, The Leftover Woman tells a story of identity, ambition, and love that makes us look again at who we are and who we're forced to be. It asks us: How far would you go to get what you want?"

— Julia Phillips, bestselling author of Disappearing Earth

"The Leftover Woman is an unforgettable, beautifully written page-turner that’s about so many things at once: a courageous woman fighting to escape an abusive husband, a mother’s love and sacrifice, and how culture and language dramatically change the lens through which we are seen and evaluated by others. Jean Kwok uses an intricately layered plot to ensnare and mesmerize us with fierce, complex characters. I absolutely adored this novel, from its tantalizing first pages to the poignant ending."

— Angie Kim, bestselling author of Miracle Creek

“What a page-turner! The Leftover Woman asks aching questions about family and love even as it hop-scotches across cultures and classes, bringing both tragedy and hope. A marvelous read.”

— Gish Jen, award-winning author of The Resisters

“An utterly riveting novel about two very different mothers, The Leftover Woman is not only an absolutely propulsive thriller but also a profound exploration of poverty and privilege, oppression and escape, desire and the self. This spellbinding narrative of immigration and hidden identity proves in so many ways that love has no boundaries.”

— Lan Samantha Chang, author of The Family Chao

The Leftover Woman is a gripping, emotional story of women forced to make impossible (sometimes life-and-death) decisions. Driven by love and self-determination, Jasmine and Rebecca present fierce representations of motherhood rife with vivid struggles and triumphs that lodged right in my heart. Jean Kwok once again delivers suspense and passion within a character-driven framework that readers can't help but lose themselves in. The Leftover Woman is one of the best and brightest books of the year!

— Thao Thai, author of Banyan Moon

“A highly entertaining page-turner."

— Kirkus

“Jean Kwok established herself as a writer to watch with her stunning [novel], Searching for Sylvie Lee, and her upcoming novel is just as emotional, beautiful, and haunting. . . . Kwok has woven an impeccably plotted domestic thriller that culminates in a profoundly satisfying ending, and I must insist that everyone pick this one up.”

— Crimereads

About the Author

Jean Kwok is the award-winning, New York Times and international bestselling author of The Leftover Woman (coming Oct 10, 2023), Searching for Sylvie Lee, Girl in Translation and Mambo in Chinatown. Her work has been published in twenty countries and taught in universities, colleges and high schools across the world.

An instant New York Times bestseller, Searching for Sylvie Lee was selected for the Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club and featured in The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, CNN, The New York Post, The Washington Post, O Magazine, People, Entertainment Weekly and more. Jean has been chosen for numerous honors including the American Library Association Alex Award, the Chinese American Librarians Association Best Book Award, an Orange New Writers title and the Sunday Times Short Story Award international shortlist. She was one of twelve authors asked by the Agatha Christie estate to write an original, authorized Miss Marple story for Marple: Twelve New Mysteries.

She has appeared on The Today Show and Good Morning America, and spoken at many schools and venues including Harvard University, Columbia University, Talks at Google and the Tucson Festival of Books. A television documentary was filmed about Jean and her work.

Jean immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn when she was five and worked in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her childhood while living in an unheated, roach-infested apartment. In between her undergraduate degree at Harvard and MFA in fiction at Columbia, she worked for three years as a professional ballroom dancer. Jean is trilingual, fluent in Dutch, Chinese and English, and studied Latin for seven years. She divides her time between the Netherlands and New York City. WEBSITE

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