Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng / ★★★★☆
Summary: The Richardson family live in Shaker Heights, where everything is neat and orderly and planned. When the artistic, nomadic mother and daughter, Mia and Pearl, move into Elena Richardson’s tenant house, the two families become irreversibly intertwined. When a custody battle over a Chinese-American baby breaks out between friends of the Richardsons and a friend of Mia’s, Elena and Mia find themselves on opposing sides. Looking for an advantage, Elena decides to uncover the secrets to Mia’s mysterious past.
Rules existed for a reason: if you followed them, you would succeed; if you didn’t, you might burn the world to the ground.
Little Fires Everywhere is a story of intricacies that align to create something cataclysmic. I loved the detail in every scene, in every plot point and in every character, how even if two things weren’t necessarily related, everything built upon each other until something – or someone – had to give. This book grabbed me from the very first chapter, where it sets the scene with the outcome of the novel and then proceeds to rewind us back to where the story starts. The events of this book unfold slowly, but I never found myself disinterested or put off by the slow pace. Ng takes time to unravel her story and the father I got into the book, the more enraptured I became. Little Fires Everywhere tells a story about motherhood, and I found it broke a certain mold by giving us a story about what mothers will do to hold on to their children at all costs- while keeping grasp on a sense of self-preservation at the same time.
I did have a few frustrations with how I felt the narrative was swaying me, as in, I felt like it was telling me to think a certain way, when sometimes parts of me really had to agree with what I felt like the novel was telling me NOT to agree with. Still, Ng made a point to give you all sides of a story, and I loved how it developed such a sense of empathy in me toward the characters, even when I didn’t necessarily agree with how events were unfolding. Other than that, I did find a certain element of the ending rather cheesy and a little too on-the-nose in regards to character development and interpretation. Still, I enjoyed this novel very much and was amazed by how intricate it was.
I did, at first, find the characters to be a bit stereotypical- or rather, they all had the roles you would expect characters to have in a story set in suburban America. Perfect mom vs. artsy mom, popular daughter, outcast daughter, popular sporty son, etc. But the deeper I got into the book, the more I found they broke their molds and I love how intricately we got to know each of them, their pasts, their present, and even hints at their futures. Ng so effortlessly gave us the different sides of their stories and their personalities. The relationships that developed between them became tangled with personal desires and motivations, outward appearances and community standards and cultural relations. Like I said, there was an element of the ending that I felt narrowed in on character interpretation a bit too much for the reader, but otherwise Ng accomplished so much with her characters in this book.
This book had some of the best writing I’ve read in a while, and Ng is absolutely the queen of the third person omniscient point of view. She so smoothly and effortlessly wove her story through the voices of each of her characters, zoomed in and out of their heads and took us from one character to the next, from present to past to future, without jolting me out of the story once.
Was I satisfied?
Even though I had a few minor issues, yes, ultimately I was satisfied! This was a fascinating story about motherhood and community, and I enjoyed it so much.
I got this book through through the Book of the Month Club, from which you can pick a brand new release every month! If you want to subscribe to Book of the Month, you can use my referral link!