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  • Tracy Sherlock

Our Missing Hearts: Family love at the heart of dystopian page turner

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

Our Missing Hearts

By Celeste Ng

Penguin Random house

It took me ‘til December, but I finally read my book of the year. It’s Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng. I’ve been on the waiting list for it at the library for months, but last week I saw it on the rapid reads shelf, so I immediately checked it out and consumed it whole over two straight days.

This is the story of Bird Gardner, 12, a young boy whose mother is missing. She left home three years before, seemingly abandoning Bird and his father, a former linguistics professor who now shelves books at the university library. This is not an ordinary world Bird lives in, and there is much more to the story of his mother.

Without giving too much away, let’s just say that this world is just a slight, but nasty, tweak away from today’s real world. It’s dystopian in ways just slightly more severe than where we now find ourselves. Ng alters reality just enough to show us that danger is lurking, very close.

This book reminds me, in all the best ways, of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and George Orwell's 1984. Bird’s mother, Margaret Miu, is both Asian and an inspirational poet – neither of which is a safe thing to be in this twisted world.

Careful, readers. You will see reality reflected in this novel, and it may get you thinking. Perhaps you will think about how First Nations children were removed from their homes and taken to residential school once, or how today’s foster care system is considered the new residential school system.

It may get you thinking about the Holocaust or the separation of families at borders, or the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War or the increase in anti-Asian violence during COVID-19. It certainly got me thinking and that thought was “never again.”

Another caution – author Celeste Ng writes page turners; books you cannot put down. Her previous novels, Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You were riveting, true and just that little bit revolutionary. Our Missing Hearts is no different. It’s already an instant New York Times bestseller and notable book of 2022, listed by publications including TIME Magazine, The Washington Post, USA Today, NPR, the Los Angeles Times and Oprah Daily.

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