Little Fires Everywhere
By: Celeste Ng
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.
Been seeing this book everywhere (pun intended?) for the past year or so, and with the miniseries having been released this year I figured it was time to check it out and read what it’s all about 🙂
I guess it’s a trick to say it’s a slim book considering it’s like 300+ pages and there’s a lot happening between the pages. Perhaps a bit too much:
- a coming of age story
- women’s issues–questions of abortion, barrenness, career, family, friendships
- race–of culture, of adopting a baby not of your race
- motherhood in its different forms–as a single mother, a career mother, an adoptive mother
- the secrets we keep from each other
Sometimes I forgot about the more grandiose picture of themes running through the story because of what’s happening with all of the characters. In starting this book I understood this book tackled issues of class and race but it was honestly hard to appreciate those themes, hard for it to truly resonate, as you’re caught up in the individual stories of both the adults and the teenagers. Which I guess isn’t a bad thing, except I found myself stopping whilst reading and recalling where were these larger themes supposed to come into play.
And honestly I found Izzy annoying. Was I suppose to applaud her outsider-ness, her refusal to conform?
Overall Little Fires Everywhere was an interesting read. However I personally preferred Everything I Never Told You ( review) which I found more evocative and contained. This book had a lot going on, which is a good and bad thing–felt the personal drama of the characters were far more prominent than the friends’ attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby. Nonetheless it was an interesting read. Might check out the miniseries sometime.