Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

I was prepared to be underwhelmed, because I thought her last book was overrated, and this one probably is too, but it’s more mature at least. The emotional moves are perhaps less obvious, and I think it does a good job of addressing a contemporary social vibe while still feeling personal and specific.

It’s not really dystopia. It’s a plausible near future involving a fear-fueled semi-fascist anti-Chinese highly censored society, and the book is about a family resisting that. Not entirely on purpose. The mother, Margaret, has written a poem that is not itself overtly political, but was adopted by the resistance movement, so she was swept up into it.

Bird, her 12-year-old son, knows only that his mother left him and his father, and they treat her as if she did something horrible and has been banished from their lives. In the book, he goes to find what really happened. Meanwhile, the mother herself continues to struggle with her role–in the larger drama and in her family.

The book addresses the power of bearing witness and remembering, with the center of that effort being public libraries. It’s interesting, but I think she could’ve gotten more from it. The idea for the ending felt underdeveloped to me.

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