Book Review: Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

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 drawn 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.


I picked up Our Missing Hearts purely based on the hype of Celeste Ng. I knew nothing about the book beforehand so, of course, expected it to be like Little Fires Everywhere (which I watched but haven’t read). It was something completely different and while that can be a good thing, it wasn’t for me in this instance.

The concept of the book was interesting but, to be honest, it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. And while the language was certainly lyrical, it simply glossed over the missing depth that Our Missing Hearts could have had.

I feel it was also a bit of a slow burner. Part one went extremely slow but the pace picked up when we came to Margaret’s point of view. I started to take to the book a bit more and, as a result, expected too much from the final part. Sadly, it fell flat and I was left feeling disappointed and unsatisfied.

Our Missing Hearts wasn’t for me but, if you would like to give it a try, you can pick up a copy here.



  1. Great review! I thought the synopsis sounded like it could be a really heartfelt book but sounds like that didn’t deliver. Shame it wasn’t what you hoped it would be.

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