Reviews of Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

Our Missing Hearts

A Novel

by Celeste Ng

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng X
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
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  • Published:
    Oct 2022, 352 pages

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Book Summary

From the #1 bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere, comes one of the most highly anticipated books of the year – the inspiring new novel about a mother's unbreakable love in a world 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.

Excerpt
Our Missing Hearts

The letter arrives on a Friday. Slit and resealed with a sticker, of course, as all their letters are: Inspected for your safety-PACT. It had caused confusion at the post office, the clerk unfolding the paper inside, studying it, passing it up to his supervisor, then the boss. But eventually it had been deemed harmless and sent on its way. No return address, only a New York, NY postmark, six days old. On the outside, his name-Bird-and because of this he knows it is from his mother.

He has not been Bird for a long time.

We named you Noah after your father's father, his mother told him once. Bird was all your own doing.

The word that, when he said it, felt like him. Something that did not belong on earth, a small quick thing. An inquisitive chirp, a self that curled up at the edges.

The school hadn't liked it. Bird is not a name, they'd said, his name is Noah. His kindergarten teacher, fuming: He won't answer when I call him. He only answers to Bird.

Because his ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Stephen King, The New York Times Book Review
Firmly written and well-executed ... a meditation on the sometimes accidental power of words ... I won't give away the splendid conclusion of Ng's book; suffice it to say … It's impossible not to be moved by Margaret Miu's courage, or to applaud her craftiness ... Ng succeeds ... partly because her outrage is contained and focused, and mostly because she is often captivated by the very words she is using … Bird is a brave and believable character, who gives us a relatable portal into a world that seems more like our own every day.

Literary Hub, 22 Novels You Need to Read This Fall
What an immense joy it is to be back in the trusty hands of Celeste Ng! Like Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You, Our Missing Hearts is a careful study of a family trying their best to live their lives in a world that is rooting against them … [W]hat's particularly striking is Celeste Ng's ability to show us the horrors of this world while also showing how banal it's become for our characters … This is a tale that is propulsive and poignant in equal measure; it's a much-needed love letter to the written word.

Los Angeles Times, Most Anticipated Books of the Fall
[A] stark and stunning fable.

People
[Ng's] most powerful work to date.

Vulture, Books We Can't Wait to Read This Fall
Ng is very good at writing social commentary that's too full of heart and humanity to feel preachy ... almost folkloric ... But as Ng shifts perspectives and fills in the details of how America became the version of itself her book describes, things get scarily real.

Katie Bowlby, Country Living
A compelling and brutal telling of a too-real dystopia ... It's a thought-provoking book that will stay with you long after the last page.

Lauren Mechling, Vogue, Best Books to Read This Fall
"[A] clenched fist of a novel ... Ng has crafted an unwaveringly dark fairy tale for a world that has stopped making sense.

Booklist (starred review)
"[So] much of this utterly stupendous tale is hauntingly, horrifically, historically, currently all too real, from removing and caging children to anti-Asian hate crimes, violent protests, police brutality, and despotic (so-called) leadership. Yet Ng creates an exquisite story of unbreakable family bonds, lifesaving storytelling (and seemingly omniscient librarians!), brilliantly subversive art, and accidentally transformative activism. As lyrical as it is chilling, as astonishing as it is empathic, Our Missing Hearts arguably achieves literary perfection.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Ng's first two novels—her arresting debut, Everything I Never Told You (2014), and devastating follow-up, Little Fires Everywhere (2017)—provided an insightful, empathetic perspective on America as it is. Her equally sensitive, nuanced, and vividly drawn latest effort, set in a dystopian near future in which Asian Americans are regarded with scorn and mistrust by the government and their neighbors, offers a frightening portrait of what it might become...thoroughly engrossing and deeply moving.

Library Journal (starred review)
Known for focusing on families, race, and relationships, Ng raises the bar another notch in a story intensified by reference to such police violence, political protest, book banning, and discrimination against people of color. Ng's beautiful yet chilling tale will resonate with readers who enjoyed Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Jessamine Chan's more recent School for Good Mothers. As with her previous novels, her storytelling will not disappoint.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Remarkable ... Ng crafts an affecting family drama out of the chilling and charged atmosphere, and shines especially when offering testimony to the power of art and storytelling ...Ng's latest crackles and sizzles all the way to the end.

Shelf Awareness
An eerie, prophetic novel … [that] showcases Ng's own ingenuity and range. Brilliantly envisioned and filled with Ng's signature tender, intimate character work and complex family dynamics, this coming-of-age story asks what it means to be a good parent or a good citizen when every child is at risk, as well as what power art has to challenge injustice.

BookPage (starred review)
Celeste Ng is undoubt­edly at the top of her game … Ng's prose highlights the fateful and some­times absurd connections between our world and the realm of ideas, reminding readers that what is in our heads will always reveal itself in our bodies. The result is a novel that will undoubtedly impact how we connect and live in this terrifying, beautiful world.

Reader Reviews

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 ...   Read More
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 ...   Read More
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 ...   Read More
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 ...   Read More

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