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 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.


an interior journey thoughts


There is something hollow and fearful about Our Missing Hearts as we begin the story of what life was like during the times after the “Crisis.” A time after a stringent law is passed (PACT) that focuses on people supposedly “Anti-American,” but who are mostly Asian. People whose ideas don’t jive with those who are more “in line” with American culture.

Primarily we learn more about a family with a child named Bird, a mother who writes poetry but who incidentally is Asian, and a father who works in a library. What happens to this family hurts my heart, and I am feeling the angst of what can happen to families and people because of a law. An unjust law, in my opinion.

Fearful of what might lie ahead for any of us kept me reading about these characters and how their lives were torn apart. And how dismantled shelves were the reminders of the books that some considered anti-American. My heart went out to what had become of these characters and what might become of any of us. 4.5 stars.



  1. I’ve had this one on my TBR for a while and look forward to it. Though it can be hard to read those heartbreaking kinds of stories, I also find them engrossing if they’re well done. I’ve like Ng’s books in the past so have hopes for this one, which seem well placed after your review. I’ll have to pick it up when I’m in the mood for a good emotional read.
    Terrie @ Bookshelf Journeys

    Liked by 1 person

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