Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celest Ng
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
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.
This is a beautifully written story which manages to be about so much, addressing so many themes, but addressing each with vivid beauty. Celeste Ng’s writing is just dreamy – I could read her books all day, and although this is the first book I’ve read by her, I’ll certainly be reading Everything I Never Told You, too.
I got such a sense of place from Ng’s writing; I really felt like I could feel the restrictive, perfectionist feel of Shaker Heights, and each character really made an impression on me, from slightly annoying, self-centered Lexie to artistic, seemingly-carefree (and slightly mysterious) Mia. I loved reading about them all, and how they interact once their lives all collide together.
I was surprised at how, in many ways, this book felt very ‘normal’ and real. It wasn’t as abstract as I for some reason expected, which I’m glad about because it made it feel far more real. There were, of course, plenty of beautiful metaphors and hints at what is to come, and I loved the way that characters weren’t too perfect; in fact, I completely changed my thoughts on some characters from the start to the finish of the book, and I really liked that.
It’s hard to sum up exactly why this book is so wonderful and powerful – it just needs to be sunk into. Put some time aside to completely immerse yourself in it, and enjoy!