Daniel was unexpectedly left by his Chinese mother when he was a kid, and never stopped wondering where she went.
Deming is lost. The leavers have left him behind.
All the people who have left his life have taken chunks of his identity with them. They left when he was pliable and unformed, and those missing chunks have left him unable to find his shape.
Deming consistently does the wrong thing as he grows into adulthood in this book. It doesnâ€™t help that his adoptive parents are so grating. The family together is like a trifecta of â€œugh.â€
The adopted parents, who in fairness do love Deming, try way to hard to create a perfect traditional American family while considering the boy himself way too little.
His Chinese heritage is fetishistically wonderful; a symbolic Certificate of Cultural Awareness they can hang on their mantle. But beyond his physical appearance, the reality of fitting his Chinese culture into their daily lives is more inconvenience than inspiration. They donâ€™t even keep his Chinese name, changing it to Daniel.
All the while, Deming tries to figure out just what happened to his mother.
Initially, itâ€™s tiresome. Demingâ€™s incessant search for his mother is futile. After all, this isnâ€™t the first time sheâ€™s left him. He overlooks the sin of a mother abandoning her son and thinks only of reunion.
At the core of The Leavers is a child begging, â€œLove me. Love me. Love me.â€ Itâ€™s that simple need that drives everything and redeems it.
Turns out, the parents, adoptive and birth, are begging for the same thing.