Genre: Literary Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 30 minutes
First Published: 2022
In a dystopian America, libraries are heavily censored and authorities can relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian descent. For years, Bird has disavowed the work of his mother, a banned Chinese American who left years ago. When he receives a drawing in the mail, Bird sets out on a quest to search for his missing mother, leading him to an underground network in New York and a new act of defiance.
You know that quote about the Holocaust from Martin Niemöller: “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” Our Missing Hearts embodies this sentiment where a pro-American values bill has resulted in any murmur of protest being listed as anti-American and heavily punished. Unlike her other books (Everything I Never Told You, Little Fires Everywhere), Ng’s latest is very literary and flatter, with less depth to the story as a whole. Although I enjoyed it, it felt more like a thought experiment than an emotional read.
From the number one bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere, a deeply suspenseful and heartrending novel about the unbreakable love between a mother and child in a society consumed by fear.
Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. Bird knows to not ask too many questions, stand out too much, or stray too far. For a decade, their lives have been governed by laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic—including the work of Bird’s mother, Margaret, a Chinese American poet who left the family when he was nine years old.
Bird has grown up disavowing his mother and her poems; he doesn’t know her work or what happened to her, and he knows he shouldn’t wonder. But when he receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, he is pulled into a quest to find her. His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of librarians, into the lives of the children who have been taken, and finally to New York City, where a new act of defiance may be the beginning of much-needed change.
Our Missing Hearts is an old story made new, of the ways supposedly civilized communities can ignore the most searing injustice. It’s a story about the power—and limitations—of art to create change, the lessons and legacies we pass on to our children, and how any of us can survive a broken world with our hearts intact.
About Celeste Ng
Celeste Ng is the bestselling author of three novels, Everything I Never Told You, Little Fires Everywhere, and Our Missing Hearts. Ng grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Shaker Heights, Ohio. Visit the author’s website →