Behind The Book With Jean Kwok

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Behind The Book With Jean Kwok 

This weeks Behind The Book is with New York Times Bestselling author Jean Kwok. I did a Q&A with her last fall and I was so delighted to be doing this Behind The Book about her upcoming release, The Leftover Woman. I can’t wait to read more. Preorder The Leftover Woman, which is coming out on October 10th

Q: For those who haven’t read the book yet, would you like to tell the readers of the blog a little bit about The Leftover Woman?

A: For me, this is a deeply personal novel. The Leftover Woman is about two mothers, two worlds and one impossible choice. When Jasmine Yang gives birth in China and is told her baby died shortly afterwards, she grieves. However, a few years later, she discovers that her daughter had not died but been given away by her husband to a wealthy American couple for adoption—another casualty of China’s controversial one-child policy. When the novel opens, Jasmine has followed her child to New York City, with her husband hot on her trail. Meanwhile, publishing executive Rebecca Whitney has it all: wealth, a high-powered career, a handsome husband, and an adopted Chinese daughter she adores. But this perfect world begins to crumble. The Leftover Woman finds Jasmine and Rebecca on a shocking collision course. This is a story of two women in a divided city— separated by severe economic and cultural differences yet bound by their absolute love for a child. 

Q: Last fall when we did our Q&A you mentioned that you had finished writing The Leftover Woman. How long did it take you to write The Leftover Woman? 

A: It took me about 3 years to write this book. In the process of writing it, I feel like at some point, every character was in bed with each other, in jail or dead! There were so many possibilities because I fell in love with each of my characters: Jasmine, the young woman who decides to pursue her lost daughter and a new love at the same time; Rebecca, who tries so hard to fulfill everyone’s expectations; Anthony, Jasmine’s childhood best friend, who is also trying to make his way in New York City; and Brandon, Rebecca’s handsome language prodigy husband, who speaks fluent Chinese. 

Q: I know in our Q&A last year you said Searching For Sylvie Lee was inspired by the disappearance of your brother. Is The Leftover Woman, inspired by an actual story of a Chinese woman or women whose babies were given up at birth without their knowledge? 

A: I know so many women who either needed to give up their babies or were the daughters who had been given up. I’m friends with people who had adopted Chinese girls as well. I was particularly inspired by the challenges faced by one woman who had been left as a baby on the side of the road to die. She was taken in and raised by her grandmother and uncle, and treated terribly by her adoptive family, yet ultimately triumphed over her circumstances. I always knew that one day, I would tell this story. 

Q: What important lessons do you hope readers learn after reading The Leftover Woman? 

A: I wanted to write a suspenseful novel, filled with twists and turns, about murder and love that blossom in the most unexpected of places. It was hard to find the right ending for this book because I’d set up an impossible situation with two mothers who loved one child with all their hearts. 

Ultimately, I wanted the novel to be a celebration of our ability to learn and change, despite our flaws. It’s about the qualities we have in common instead of the issues that drive us apart. The book touches upon many themes that are relevant today: international adoption, women and ambition, immigration, race and the fetishization of Asian women. I hope that readers leave feeling moved and inspired by the novel.