Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng
To buy: Indigo (Affiliate Link)
Summary: In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned—from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors 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 teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town—and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood—and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.
I know I’m a little late to the Little Fires Everywhere party, but in my defence, there’s kind of been big fires everywhere in my life. I kept seeing the previews for the TV show, which airs here in Canada on Prime (I believe) and stars Kerry Washington (who I love) and Reese Witherspoon (I still love Elle Woods).
However I am one of those people who can’t just watch the TV show, I have to know what the source material was. I just had to know what the book was like.
First of all, it was interesting to travel back to a time (1990s) as an adult via this book, when I was just a child the first time around. The lack of cell phones, of social media, made this novel even more intriguing to me, though I can’t help but wonder how much that would’ve blown up this story even more.
It was nostalgic, but not necessarily in a good way. Shaker Heights reminds people that the idea of perfect suburbia is only really perfect if you exist within a certain specific place in time and space, and never move out of this box.
The writing unveils the secrets of those “perfect” places, and how we all have secrets. It also helps reveal that even if you think you know something, that you know someone, you might not have the whole truth.
Suburbia is just as messed up as anywhere else (maybe more so) and I felt simultaneously sorry for and angry at most of the characters because they are deeply, deeply flawed.
Either way the book is good, and makes you question yourself as you’re reading it, wondering what you might do.