Book Report: Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

February 9, 2023

I gave my daughter this book, Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng for Christmas, knowing eventually I would get it back from her and then I could read it. Smart, huh? The word she used when she passed it on to me is “exquisite,” and it is. Every word, every sentence is perfect. Not a word wasted. Not an overblown or unnecessary sentence. Exquisite.

The book, a dystopian novel, is also chilling and upsetting.

So often dystopian novels are far-fetched, and truly stretch our imaginations, but as I read this book, I had to often remind myself that the book is fiction and not nonfiction. The references to books taken off library shelves, to the crimes against Chinese Americans, to children separated from parents at our southern borders, and to the fear and systems created to “protect” American culture are all too relevant.

The main character is Bird, a 12 year-old Chinese American boy, whose mother is a poet. Her poem “Our Missing Hearts” becomes a slogan, an icon for protesters, and she leaves her family and becomes a fugitive. Bird, after finding some clues, attempts to find her. You will fall in love with Bird.

The book also lifts the power of words and of story. And memories.

I don’t want to say more, except READ THIS BOOK, but instead I share two of my favorite passages. The first is Bird’s father’s reflections about his wife, Bird’s mother. And the second is almost at the end of the book and brought tears to my eyes.

…this unshakable belief that the world was a knowable place. That by studying its branches and byways, the tracks it had rutted in the dust, you could understand it. For her the magic was not what words had been, but what they were capable of: their ability to sketch, with one sweeping brushstroke, the contours of an experience, the form of a feeling. How could they make the ineffable, how could they hover a shape before you for an eye blink, before it dissolved into the air. And this, in turn, was what he loved about her–insatiable curiosity about the world, how for her it could never be fully unraveled, it held infinite mysteries and wonders and sometimes all you could do was stand agape, rubbing your eyes, trying to see properly.

p. 176

When does she stop speaking? When are you ever done with the story of someone you love? You turn the most precious of your memories over and over, wearing their edges smooth, warming them again with your heat. You touch the curves and hollows of every detail you have, memorizing them, reciting them once more though you already know them in your bones. Who ever thinks, recalling the face of the one they loved who is gone: yes, I looked at you enough, I loved you enough, we had enough time, any of this was enough?

p. 302

My one complaint about the book is the cover. Did I miss the relevance of the feather? Yes, the boy is named Bird, but the flock of birds on the cover doesn’t seem to represent him. Did those responsible for the cover art read the book? Oh well.

An Invitation

What books make you shout, READ THIS BOOK? I would love to know

6 thoughts on “Book Report: Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

  1. Wow! Thanks. M

    Martha K.S. Patrick Gümüşlük, Muğla, Turkey

    *Gönülden gönüle yol** vardır. *Turkish Proverb From one heart to another there is a path.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the words of the Turkish proverb. I will say this as I place my right hand on my heart and extend my left hand, feeling the energy and the love flow. My heart is open to all in Turkey on these days of dire loss and devastation.


  2. Thank you, Nancy. I read two of Celeste’s books. Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere and enjoyed both. She is a wonderful writer. I”m putting this on my TBR list for this year.


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