Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Publisher: Penguin Press
Published September 12th, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Adult Fiction
* Received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much! This doesn’t affect the review in any way. My opinions are, as always, my own.*
The brilliant new novel from the author of the New York Times bestseller, Everything I Never Told You.
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 principal 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.
I’ve had this book for quite a while. I tried to read it back at the end of November and I just couldn’t get into it. The story was interesting but I’m not used to slow-paced books and I also don’t read many adult fictions, so I had to put it down at that moment. I tried again now in January, and this time, I don’t know if it was because I was in the mood or what happened, but I started getting absorbed in it from the very first pages. And I’m so happy I did!
Little Fires Everywhere is an extremely interesting, complex and slow-paced book that revolves around family dynamics – especially mom and daughter – and small-town politics.
The synopsis of the book is really accurate so I’m going to pass that part here and talk about some parts of it. The book starts with a literal fire going on at the Richardson’s house. We see them blaming Izzy, the youngest child and the only one missing in the picture. Right in that moment is when I started getting interested in the book. How can they blame her if they don’t know if it was her? She is rarely at home anyway, couldn’t she be just somewhere else and had nothing to do with it? I got completely engrossed in the characters and really wanted to understand them.
But from that scene, we move backward. Because to understand the fire, you have to understand the characters and what was going on in their minds. We meet Mia, an artist, and her daughter Pearl when they move to the town and start living in a rented house owned by the Richardson’s. Their families will mingle together and we will get to know Mr. and Mrs. Richardon and their four kids – Moody, Izzy, Lexie and Trip – and Mia and Pearl. We get not only to see their present but also their past. All the characters have some kind of role in the story and they are extremely well developed. You just get pushed in their lives… You get to know their personality, personal stories, the way they think, everything!
On the side of that, we also have two other characters that play an important role in the story – the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese baby, while her birth mom is fitting to get her too. It will make you take sides, make you think what is more important, what would you do in their position, and it will take a great tall in your emotions. The baby could have everything – live in a big house, full of toys and everything she would ever need or want, with adoptive parents that will undoubtedly love her. But is that enough? The baby already has a mother that is willing to take care of her. She might not have all the easy life the adoptive family has, but she has her love for her daughter, and the desire to take care of her. Things became tense, chaotic and it will be a big part of the book. It was done in an incredibly gripping way and it left me emotionally drained.
This book surprised me a lot and I think the characters that most struck me were Lizzy and Mia. They just hit me harder than the others. This book will turn your emotions upside down. It’s hard-hitting and emotional and as complex as real life. You will be inevitably pulled into their life, connected and disconnected with them several times. You will love them, hate them, take pity on them, and yet by the end, I still don’t know how to put my feelings in order… I don’t know what to think of anyone… If only life was in black and white, then it would be easy to take sides. But it isn’t and I feel that everyone has valid points of view and the author makes sure you get to choose your side. She doesn’t make anyone better than the other, or even give her opinion, she just presents you with “reality”, and that’s one of the things I most loved.
This book also touched themes like trust, family connections, mother-daughter relationships, friendship, young love, teen pregnancy, abortion, adoption, racism, and so on. It’s incredibly complete and complex, very well written, striking and emotional. And although I think you might have to be in the mood for this type of books, I think it’s 100% worth it and I would highly recommend it.
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let’s discuss it in the comments below!