Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – 352 pages
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.
My Review: 4 stars
Little Fires Everywhere is an insider’s peek into the life of an affluent suburban household. Author Ng proves that her debut novel from 2014, Everything I Never Told You, was not a one hit wonder. This author has the skills to tell a story with excellent pacing and character development.
This book offers so much to discuss that I feel like this is the one of the best book club discussion novels from 2017. Marriage, rich vs. poor, parenting, sibling relationships, adoption, abortion, art, secrets and how we show our love are just a few of the talking points. The author’s style of writing is also important as we have an omniscient POV telling us the story.
The title is beyond perfect. Yes, the book opens and closes on the day of the fire, but that’s not at all what the title refers too. Instead, with subtle nuances of what makes these two families tick, we see little fires building everywhere. We see them at school, in our homes, between friends, between siblings, at work and in the community. There are so many small plots going on with the major and minor characters, it’s a wonder Ng kept it all straight as she penned this novel.
The two moms in this book that live their lives so differently have brought quite a bit of controversy among readers. Most love one and hate the other and vice versa. I’ve been in several book chats in which the crowd is so divisive on this. There are also a few of the children that bring up this reaction. Another reason this makes for a good book discussion book.
I can’t wait to see what’s next from Ng as she’s proven to be an author who can write complex and highly likable stories.
Quotes I liked:
Most of the time, everyone deserves more than one chance. We all do things we regret now and then. You just have to carry them with you.”
-“To a parent, your child wasn’t just a person: your child was a place, a kind of Narnia, a vast eternal place where the present you were living and the past you remembered and the future you longed for all at the same time.”
-“One had followed the rules, and one had not. But the problem with rules… was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time they were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure what side of the line you stood on.”
-“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”
-“Change doesn’t just happen,” her mother had always said, echoing the Shaker motto. “It has to be planned.”