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Our missing hearts : a novel
2022
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Library Journal Review
Incorporating recent events into her narrative, the best-selling Ng (Little Fires Everywhere) crafts a dystopian tale about societal repression and a mother's love. It follows the quest of 12-year-old Bird ("Noah") Gardner to understand why his Chinese American mother, published poet Margaret Miu, seemingly abandoned him and his father, Ethan, three years earlier. Instructed by his father to deny any association to his mother and not to stray when going about his daily routines, Bird must also be careful to follow the PACT (Preserving American Cultures and Traditions) passed by the government following a major worldwide crisis. He doesn't want to raise any suspicions and risk being separated from his remaining parent, which happened to his classmate and closest friend, 13-year-old Sadie. 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. VERDICT 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.--Shirley Quan
Publishers Weekly Review
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. (Oct.)
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