An instant New York Times bestseller • A New York Times Notable Book of 2022 • A Reese's Book Club Pick • Named a Best Book of 2022 by TIME Magazine, The Washington Post, NPR, and Oprah Daily
From the #1 bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere, comes the inspiring new novel about a mother’s unbreakable love in a world consumed by fear.
“It’s impossible not to be moved.” —Stephen King, The New York Times Book Review
“Riveting, tender, and timely.” —People, Book of the Week
“Thought-provoking, heart-wrenching…I was so invested in the future of this mother and son, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of this deeply suspenseful story!” – Reese Witherspoon (Reese’s Book Club October ’22 Pick)
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. His mother Margaret, a Chinese American poet, left the family when he was nine years old without a trace. Bird knows to not ask too many questions, stand out too much, or stray too far. For a decade, his family's life has 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.
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
With Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng showed herself to be a dazzling novelist, capable of writing a pageturner with unforgettable characters while also exploring hot-button topics like xenophobia, racism, and class divides in ways that make us feel and think. Our Missing Hearts hits all those highs—it’s suspenseful, startling, and beautiful. The story’s set in a near future where a financial crisis has resulted in paranoia, jingoism, and a government policy of removing children from households deemed unpatriotic. Bird (whose real name is Noah) has been living with his librarian father, Ethan, in a shabby university dorm ever since his mother, Margaret—a poet whose work was adopted by protesters of family separation—disappeared. Spurred by sadness and anger, Bird embarks on a journey to discover the truth about his mother’s abandonment. This is a book we’ll be recommending to all of our friends.
Ng's remarkable dystopian latest (after Little Fires Everywhere) depicts draconian family separation tactics and a normalizing of violence against Asians and Asian Americans in an alternate present. In the wake of the nativist PACT act (Preserving American and Culture Traditions), a piece of legislation that opposes foreign cultural influences, the U.S. government begins reassigning custody of children whose parents are accused of being un-American. Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives with his white father, Ethan, a former Harvard language teacher who now shelves books in the university's library. Bird's mother, Margaret Miu, a Chinese American poet, vanished three years earlier after her work became seen as subversive. Out of the blue, Bird receives a mysterious drawing from her, reminding him of a fairy tale she used to tell him, which he's mostly forgotten. In a world where neighbors spy on each other and people with Asian features are frequently attacked on the street, Ethan has long instructed Bird to lay low. But nothing can stop him from looking for Margaret. While searching for a book that might contain the story Margaret used to tell him, he discovers a network of librarians who secretly collect information about children seized from their families and learns how Margaret's work inspired anti-PACT art demonstrations. 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 (here's Bird remembering the fairy tale in his mother's voice, "painting a picture with words on the blank white wall of his mind. Long buried. Crackling as it surfaced in the air once more"). Like Margaret's story, Ng's latest crackles and sizzles all the way to the end.
A must-read book
Similar to her first two novels, Celeste Ng did a spectacular job with writing Our Missing Hearts. The characters feel so real, the story is so riveting, and the world she has created in this book feels just realistic enough to make the scenerios terrifying. Such a beautiful, timely, and important book. Also, I love how Ng captures the amazing essence of librarians and libraries in this book. It was fun to read a story in which librarians are fictional heros, as well as real life heros.
Amazing. Scary how real and true this is and can become.
This hits home more now than ever. I worry for my babies that are half Asian.