Bird is 12 years old and he lives with his white dad. His mom, Margaret, is Chinese-American and she walked away from them 3 years earlier to protect them. They are living in a world governed by PACT (Preserving American Culture and Traditions Act) which is supposed to protect America from foreign influence aka China but what it is really doing is giving room for anti-Asian hate. Bird’s dad has told him to lay low and keep his head down but Bird is dealing with the loss of his mom and everything going on around him. After seeing a cryptic note, he is determined to find his mom and fill the gaps that have been resurrecting in his heart and mind.
I am a fan of Celeste Ng. I enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You. Those books were slow burns and I thought this was going to be the same journey for Our Missing Hearts when I started. Except, where the two books led to something, this one never did. I don’t remember at what point I realized this was going to be the book but I was probably too far gone to quit. We have seen a rise in apocalyptic settings in books and some may disagree but this was apocalyptic for me. It’s truly not fun to read something that is close to real life. All that to say that the mood for the whole book was dreary, I felt a dread the entire time.
We were told the story from Bird’s perspective and he just seemed sad. I have to say that Ng did a good job of conveying his complicated feelings as a 12 year old. His dad on the other hand didn’t seem fully fleshed out and seemed very much like a background character. When the story gets told from Margaret’s perspective, I felt like the book picked up some and was more interesting and we got more insight. But then, that felt rushed and after waiting to know more about Margaret she just seemed so impulsive and I don’t think I fully understood her motives.
I completely understand Ng’s frame of mind for writing this but I feel like she didn’t find the balance between writing about a conscious message and writing something enjoyable. There was a lot of focus on getting the message across that it didn’t feel relaxed. Although it was an important message, I think it failed in execution because overall I found it boring. I could not get myself to connect with any of the characters. I really wanted to like this one but being bored + the constant sense of dread didn’t make for a pleasant read.