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What readers think of Our Missing Hearts, plus links to write your own review.

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Our Missing Hearts

A Novel

by Celeste Ng

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng X
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Oct 2022, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2023, 352 pages

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There are currently 26 reader reviews for Our Missing Hearts
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Cathryn Conroy

Unputdownable! A Frightening, Cautionary Dystopian Tale That Seems All Too Real
This is a scary novel. Very scary. And it's not because author Celeste Ng has suddenly written a horror novel. It's frightening because this cautionary dystopian tale of what could happen in the United States has just enough shreds of possibility in it to maybe someday be real. (If it isn't heading that way already.)

It's an unknown date in the future. A Crisis (yes capital "C") has happened in the United States, but the details of what that means are not offered until midway through the book—so no spoilers here. But the Crisis has upended the country. The most startling results are twofold: In addition to many, many books being banned from libraries and bookstores that are either burned or recycled into toilet paper, everyday people are spying on one another and reporting what they think as suspicious activity to the government. If this happens to parents, the children are summarily removed from their custody, never to be seen again. Books are banned so people won't be damaged by dangerous ideas. And shrouding all of this is a deep-seated hatred and fear of all Asian people, a fear that is enforced by PACT, which stands for Preserving American Culture and Traditions. PACT is supposed to strengthen and unify the nation. People watch what they say. They watch what they do. They watch each other.

But not everyone agrees with this repressive, authoritarian government. Some are willing to risk everything to speak out loud—even their children.

Ethan Gardner and Margaret Miu are happily married and living in Cambridge, Massachusetts with one child, a little boy they named Noah but nicknamed Bird. When the story opens, Bird is 12 years old. Bird's mom is Chinese-American and a poet. A single line in one of her poems—and not even her best poem!—has become a rallying cry for protesters against the government: All our missing hearts. Margaret was long ago targeted, and when she and Ethan feared Bird would be removed from them, they decided that Margaret would leave and essentially disappear. Ethan would renounce her. It's three years later, and the plan has worked if you don't count the fact that both Ethan and Bird are broken people, who desperately miss Margaret but can never speak her name or share their memories—even with each other. Then one day Bird receives a mysterious drawing of cats from his mother and later finds a strange New York City address. Could he find his mom three years after she has disappeared? Bird's head is filled with the many fairy tales his mother told him as a child, and he realizes he must embark on a similar quest, becoming the hero who endures an ordeal.

This is an unputdownable novel where librarians are the quiet heroes and everyday people inflict the most awful violence and injustice on the unsuspecting and innocent. Hmmm…that sounds a lot like where we are today. And this is precisely why this deeply disturbing book is so scary.
Pam S. (Wellesley, MA)

A cautionary tale
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is a terrifying and all too believable fable that imagines a not-too-distant future America where a law has been passed that protects "American Values." The first part of the book is told from the perspective of Bird, a young boy whose mother disappeared three years earlier. It describes his life in a society that removes children from parents who are believed to not be sufficiently American. The second part is from his mother Margaret's point of view and describes her experiences in the years after the passage of PACT (Preserving American Culture and Traditions Act)." The book is beautifully written and a page-turner. Among other things it is a love letter to libraries and those who protect free speech.
Sarah B

Timely and Wonderful
A book that is timely and wonderfully written. The echoes of current societies in this dystopian America where people of certain ethnicities are forced to deal with state sanctioned racism. This book is in equal turns heart breaking and can offer a sense of hope too. I hope everyone that reads it loves it as much as I do.
Joyce M. (Arlington, VA)

A must read!
This book is very timely! It tells the story of a twelve-year old boy, Bird, who lives with his father in Cambridge, MA. They are living in a time when P.A.C.T. (Preserving American Culture and Traditions) is in place. Books have been banned and people are constantly worrying about being reported as not being patriotic. Some children have been separated from their parents for their own good. Bird's mother has left the family because her Asian ethnicity could put the family at risk. It's been three years since she left but Bird still misses her, and, without his father's knowledge, decides to find her based on a letter he received with a New York return address.

Next, we learn about Bird's mother, Margaret, and her life as a young woman before she met Bird's father, Ethan. It also describes the gradual changes going on in the country as the economy declines and people become desperate. Trust, in general, deteriorates and people look to blame China. There are massive job losses leading to riots and protests. This time period is known as the Crisis. We also learn more about what Margaret has been doing since she left her family.

The final part brings all the issues raised in the first two sections to a climatic end, or does it? As much as I admire how empathetically this book is written, I was disappointed with the end. I didn't feel that the level of detail that was used in the first two parts carried into the third. It seems to quickly conclude with too many unanswered questions for me. Yet there is one very significant revelation that will warm your heart.

I still rate the book as a must read! It enables readers to see what a future might look and feel like as we continue to engage in many of the activities described in this novel.
Alison F. (Clearwater, FL)

The Power of Words
Celeste Ang's Our Missing Hearts is a near dystopian novel that seems not far from our own current reality. In this case Asian but more specifically those with Chinese heritage are blamed for all troubles. The book though is about the power of words that are intended, misinterpreted or manipulated and the affects of the world on those not wishing to be part of it. The mom Margaret and 12 year old son, Bird are the voices through this frighteningly realistic tale. Nag delivers an important cautionary tale.
Linda S. (Milford, CT)

Our Missing Hearts
I reacted at first with the thought that I didn't want to read a book about the Crisis, a time of disruptions, people out of work, factories idle, shortages of everything. It was not unlike our COVID. I was quickly drawn in by the excellent characters and writing. He was Bird until his mother left when he was nine; then his Dad began to call him Noah. His Dad was a linguist at a college library, likening his job to Sisyphus. His mother, Margaret Miu, was Chinese American, a some time poet of little fame, until a young Black college student is killed. She was wearing a sweatshirt with a phrase from one of Margaret's book of poems 'All our Missing Hearts'. Indirectly, the phrase was a catalyst for a hate campaign against Asians and Margaret eventually disappeared for her safety and her beloved family. Margaret's leaving affected Bird in a myriad of ways. Love, especially a mother's love, can move mountains, but Bird was pretty tenacious in his search for Margaret. This is a great book for discussion. If you can put this book down after meeting Bird Gardner, good luck! I felt privileged to have the opportunity to read and review this amazing book.
Donna C. (Cary, NC)

A Timely Novel for Our Country Today
I feel like this book doesn't need anything said except:

JUST READ IT

However for those who may need a bit more proof (or prodding), I offer my thoughts. This book is set in a dystopian world that is scarily comparable to where we may be heading. Many of the themes are ones that have already occurred, are presently happening, and could happen if we continue down the path some people in power want us to follow. This is a dark look at what happens when the government institutes a new policy, and you either follow along or suffer the devastating consequences. The characters in this book are ones that I will remember (and worry about) for a long time to come. The writing is beautiful, and the protagonists are so well developed. The ending is devastating, yet somehow also manages to convey a sense of hope for the future. I absolutely loved the role of the librarians, major kudos to all of you! Such an impactful novel about family bonds, and trying to change a broken system.

An amazing book that I hope everyone gets their hands on!
Amy W. (Annapolis, MD)

Great Story
Very timely dystopian story of a future society where our freedoms are taken away in the name of patriotism. Beautifully written and engaging. Young Bird's search for his mother who left him at 9 to protect him from being taken away. Through the stories she told him in his childhood he pieces together where she might be.

I loved this book. It was unnerving because I could see with our divided nation how something like what Ng described in the book could happen in real life.

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