Guest Post by Kevin Brown
Our Missing Hearts by Celest Ng is a dystopian novel in the vein of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Ng says she drew everything in her fictional world from real life, which makes her United States scarily believable. The government has passed the PACT act, which prohibits discussion of un-American ideas; targets people of Chinese descent; and uses the government’s right to remove people’s children as a means of control. This law leads to rampant discrimination and violence against Asian Americans, ultimately forcing the mother of the main character to flee. While there are parts of exposition to explain this alternate America, the heart of the book is Margaret’s difficult decision to leave Bird when he was nine. He has spent several years without her, but he ultimately goes looking for her, partly because of a cryptic note he receives, but also because of the disappearance of one of his classmates, Sadie, who has been removed from her family and relocated. By centering the novel on these relationships and the effects of such a law on parents and children, Ng reminds readers that laws don’t exist in a vacuum: there are always real individuals who suffer, whether we choose to see them or not.
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng. Penguin, 2022.
Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.