Celeste Ng previews her third novel: 'It's about keeping a shared sense of humanity alive'
Celeste Ng could not avoid writing a book about the collective hell we've all been through. The author, whose first two novels center on families both complicated and tragic, set out to create another domestic story, this time about a mother and a son, but her imagination had other plans.
"I soon found myself wrestling with questions raised by the larger reckonings taking place — or being avoided — in the past few years," Ng tells EW.
What she created instead is another heartfelt page-turner, but this time set inside a society completely consumed by its own fear. Our Missing Hearts, which will be published in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats on Oct. 4 by Penguin Press in the U.S., by Little, Brown in the U.K., and by Penguin Canada in Canada, follows 12-year-old Bird Gardner. The young boy lives with his father, a former linguist currently working among the stacks at the Harvard University library, in a dystopian but not unfamiliar version of our current world. There are laws spawned by economic instability and unrest and created to "preserve American culture" that allow the government to do things like relocate the children of dissidents and censor books that could be considered unpatriotic.
Bird's mother, a Chinese American poet, seemingly abandoned the family three years ago, and he has learned to disown her and her work. The novel will trace the boy's discovery of a mysterious letter and his eventual search for his mother, which leads him to uncover a trove of secret libraries that draw him to New York City.
The book was inspired, Ng says, by questions like "Can we actually make a difference?" and "How can we teach our children to make the world better when we ourselves have failed to do so?"
"To me, Our Missing Hearts is about keeping a sense of shared humanity alive in dark, cynical, and isolating times," Ng says. "And I hope it resonates with readers."
With her third book, Ng will look to continue a string of highly successful projects. Her 2014 debut, Everything I Never Told You, about a Chinese American family in small-town Ohio devastated by the accidental death of their middle daughter, was a critical favorite that went on to be published in more than 30 languages. Her sophomore novel, Little Fires Everywhere, was a No. 1 New York Times best-seller and was adapted into a Hulu miniseries starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.
Our Missing Hearts is available for preorder now.