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Book Rec: The Leftover Woman by Jean Kwok

“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.”


I can’t believe this is my first Jean Kwok novel! This story of two very different women and the secrets that weave their lives together had me glued from the first chapter. A beautifully written story about motherhood, messy choices and strong women.


Book Summary of The Leftover Woman

book jacket with title and author prominent with background of an asian woman with red lipsticks standing behind a rainy window

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.


Discussion Guide (spoilers ahead)!

  1. What was your initial impression of Jasmine? Did you relate to her tough choices and sacrifices for her daughter?

  2. The title “The Leftover Woman” refers to the Chinese phrase for unmarried women in their late 20s. Do you think Jasmine was truly leftover or does the term have alternative meanings?

  3. How does Jasmine’s status as an undocumented worker impact her actions?

  4. How did you react to the Lucy revelation? Did you see the overlap beforehand?

  5. Discuss Rebecca and Brandon’s relationship. Do you think they had a strong relationship?

If you enjoyed this book, you may like “The Island of Sea Women.”

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Couldn’t put it down!

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