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The Leftover Woman Bets On...

The Leftover Woman

October 2023

Jean Kwok’s THE LEFTOVER WOMAN is the story of two women and one child. In China, Jasmine Yang had a baby girl. Her husband told her the infant died, but instead he had their girl given up for adoption. The One Child Policy was in place in China, and he wanted a son, not a daughter. Jasmine later learns what happened and heads to New York to find her child. To get there, she sells her wedding ring and entrusts her safe passage to snakeheads, to whom she owes a huge financial debt.

Jasmine’s daughter is living happily with a couple in New York. Rebecca Whitney is an executive at a publishing company, one that was run by her father, who she adored. Her husband, Brandon, has spent considerable time in China, and his friendship with Jasmine’s husband is the reason that they have Fiona, who is nicknamed Fifi. For Rebecca, work is filled with tension these days. A memoir she edited that was destined for multiple prizes has been found to contain lies, and she absorbs much of the professional blame for this. Jean offers an insider look at publishing here, rife with competing editors, a “big book” headed to auction, and the drama that happens when professional intrigue is layered into the process. Fifi, meanwhile, is very happy with her nanny, Lucy.

Jasmine is finding life in New York to be difficult. Trying to get a job while being undocumented is tough, but eventually she lands a job in a strip club. There, she works as a waitress and is creeped out by men who desire more than cocktails from her. All she wants is to spend time with Fifi and be part of her life. She meets an old friend from home, and here we see the shared cultural references that spur memories between two people who have grown up in the same world. There is something to be said for shared history. Is there still a spark with this man whom she knew as a boy, and how does she hide the seedy part of her life from him?

There is a twist that Jean pulls off beautifully, showing her skills as a writer and demonstrating that she only has gotten better with each book. The story is action-packed and delivers on so many levels. There is a lot to discuss here for book clubs.

The Leftover Woman
by Jean Kwok