Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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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.

Genre: Contemporary

Plot

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.

Character

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.

Writing

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!

30 thoughts on “Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

    • Lol thanks! I keep running out of places to take my book pictures and I have a friend who’s more ~bookstagram~ than I am tell me that plants are the best props to use in book pictures, lol. And I thought the white countertop was very Elena Richardson-esque.

      Liked by 1 person

      • At least you do the aesthetic bookstagram thing on here, I literally just grab the book covers from Goodreads and call it a day. But omg I know, for Insta I always end up using the same two settings, like how often can I get away with using this distinctive rug for background… And Elena would love your aesthetic here omg

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      • hahahah it takes EFFORT lol sometimes I can’t be bothered and head to goodreads but most of the time I just try to find a spot with good lighting. People who go all out with all different props and their aesthetically pleasing bedrooms as a background have so much of my admiration.

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      • LOL I know!! All I have are blankets I’ve used since I was like 10 and gray carpet and even the walls of my room are this dark purple I chose when I was like 13 so they do not make for good photography. I like to think that once I get my own place I’ll be more ~aesthetic~ but I have my doubts. It’ll probably just limit my photography surfaces if anything lol.

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      • Oh my god #gpoy….. well my walls are still white, thankfully, but they’re also covered in posters that I’ve had since high school so the whole thing is a bit of an aesthetic nightmare. Also clothes strewn everywhere because I am chronically unable to clean my room ever. Also the times I’ve had an apartment I basically wouldn’t decorate at all because I knew it was a temporary living situation and I am apparently way too lazy to put effort into somewhere looking good if I will only be there for a year. So MAYBE WHEN I AM A REAL ADULT all this will change. Maybe.

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      • Oh my gosh my mess is the biggest problem too. I cannot keep a room clean no matter how hard I try. The only things that ever stay neat are my bookshelves and they serve as my motivation for cleaning my room when I feel like my mess is ruining their aesthetic. BUT AGAIN they look so awful against my terrible walls hahaha. It’s my dream when I finally get a permanent place of my own to just fill my living room with all my bookshelves so everyone can see them ahahahah.

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  1. Great review! I just loved this book ❤ Ng is just a brilliant author and writes so masterfully. We're reading her 1st book right now in my Contemporary Lit class, and this is the 4th semester that I have taught it, and it just gets better every semester with so much to analyze! I can't wait to teach Little Fires next semester (happy dance!!).

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s awesome that you’re teaching it!! I was an English major and I never had many classes that taught books that were published more recently. I also really need to read Ng’s first book now, I’ve heard it’s even better than Little Fires!

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      • Did you take a Contemporary lit class? Well, I guess you would have to get a BA although I know it depends on what your concentration is in too. It’s a class that only focuses on writers from 1945 to the present..Flannery O’Connor, J.D. Salinger, Sylvia Plath, Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson, Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth, and a bunch of others, but I always choose 2 contemporary (in the past 5 yrs) novels to read and I let my students pick 1 of them. Everything I Never Told You has been the most popular book I’ve had on my syllabus in 16 yrs, lol. I’m not sure about better. Different. But I’m looking at them differently since I’m preparing my lesson plan for Jan with Little Fires, so I’ve started breaking it down chapter by chapter and different dialogue for hidden meaning….it all looks different when being analyzed from that perspective. I don’t think I can compare them anymore lol. But you need to read it!! 😊❤

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      • I actually took an American diversity class as my contemporary lit course, and I think Little Fires would have been a great book for that class (if it had been published then of course). But your class sounds fun! It’s making me nostalgic for college, haha. Little Fires must be giving you so much to work with as you plan!! I’d have loved to write an essay on that book, lol.

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      • Yes! It definitely would be perfect! I true to make it fun. Students don’t learn well when they are bored, and I like to get them involved. There are so many things to do with Little Fires! Haha!! You should! But your review was almost like one…😄

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      • Definitely!! I read so many books in school I didn’t have fun with, so when I genuinely enjoyed a book it made all the difference. LOL sometimes I feel like I skirt the edge of analysis when I write reviews, except it’d have to get way spoilery than is acceptable for a review if I wanted to go all out 😉 My very first reviews on this blog were actually just like that, very long and rambling, and it’s the reason I made myself split my reviews into plot/character/writing/was I satisfied sections, to keep myself from wandering off into spoiler/analysis territory!

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      • Oh yes! It got easier when I was getting my Master’s since the classes were more concentrated and focused on what I liked, and that definitely helped. The 1st year I went back for my PhD was ridiculous because I had to read all kinds of things that were obscure and so very boring!! This last year is not so bad with the reading though!! SO much work though!! At least I’m getting to read and reread a lot of books I enjoy since I’m starting on my dissertation, so I’m reading so much gothic works that I may never want to again lol! LOL! Sometimes I feel like I’m writing or have written an essay when I write my reviews, but I reread them to make sure there are no spoilers, lol. I know some of mine can be long and others are short, but I guess it depends on what I have to say, but I go more about how I feel when I write them than anything. I definitely analyze them in my head, but I can’t help it. That’s how I read everything after all these years. Sometimes though I feel like getting a pen and grading some books! That is how I felt when I read Fifty Shades-it so needed an editor or something! Good grief!

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      • Yes!! I do that with so many books! Part of it is because I grade about 1964 essays a year…you don’t even want to know how many pages that is, lol. But it’s habit now to read everything in that mode 😂 I get frustrated reading poorly written emails! I was so mad the other day reading an email from my daughter’s 2nd grade teacher!! Ugh! She’d misspelled 3 words, used poor grammar, etc. I’m thinking “You’re teaching my child, lol”. I’m just a pain 🤣😉

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      • Poorly written emails, especially by people in those sorts of fields, always baffle me!! Then again, I’m always so paranoid when I send emails, especially work ones, and always reread them a few times to make sure they’re perfect before I send them haha. A friend once told me he spent like an hour crafting the perfect email to send to his teacher asking for an extension, and they replied a minute later with just “K.” It made me laugh, but I could never send an email like that lol.

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      • Yes, they drive me nuts! And I’m one of those who will spend hours writing an email lol. I get so paranoid. I answer over 100 student emails a day, but I would never answer “K” although I understand being busy. Still common courtesy and all. I’d be ticked off if a student sent me an email response like that, so I would never do it in return…even if I might want to!

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  7. Thanks for the review! This one is still on my TBR. I read Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You two/three years ago, and I loved it! Can’t wait to get my hands on Little Fires Everywhere.

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