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 the Richardsons’ friends 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.
*I RECEIVED AN ARC OF THIS BOOK FROM NETGALLEY IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW.
I don’t normally read adult fiction books, but sometimes, there are a few exceptions I make that make me wonder whether I might be missing out from something. Little Fires Everywhere made me question that same thing. I had already read Celeste Ng’s debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, and my experience with it was entirely different, so I was hesitant about requesting an ARC of her newest book. But I’m glad I did. I’m glad I gave this author another chance after not enjoying her other book, because this novel right here was a masterpiece.
If there is something undeniable about Celeste Ng is her storytelling skills. She has a way with words and with the stories that she writes that makes you feel engrossed in them from the very beginning. And that’s one of the things I love most about her books. Even if her writing style is overly descriptive, she has the capacity to draw you into the story and the characters as if you were actually living through them.
In Little Fires Everywhere we follow two very different families: we have the Richardsons, the seemingly perfect suburban family, with two working parents and three kids; and then we have the Warrens, a single mother with her teenage daughter who have been traveling and living all over the country their whole lives. So what happens when these two clashing families come into contact? The story is focused on how the lives of each one of the members of each family is impacted by each other.
Something that made me love this book was the characters. Ng has a way with presenting these picture-perfect families, and then dissecting every single one of its members to expose the good and the bad. She created complex and multi-dimensional characters that made you hate them and love them at the same time. And that’s what it’s so great about this story. There were certain decisions these characters made that made you hate them, and then the next second they would do something that made you feel sorry for them. That’s how a realistic character is written. There are no absolutes, but flawed characters that make mistakes and then have to deal with the consequences. And you can clearly see that here. Some of these characters will certainly stay with me even after a long time has passed.
If you have read Ng’s debut novel you may know that she writes about family dynamics. But in this case, it’s so much more than just the dynamics. The book poses a lot of interesting and controversial conversations of what motherhood is, and doesn’t shy away from exploring the different points of view when it comes to certain sensitive topics, such as abortion, race and adoption.
I don’t want to get into specifics in this review in terms of plot, because I honestly feel that you need to go into this book blind, not knowing what it’s actually about because it’s also hard to specify what this book is about. It deals with a plethora of topics, but it always seems to revolve around family dynamics. I loved how everything seemed to come full circle by the end of the book, and how everything was related to everything. It’s been a long time since a book made me think about certain topics, and not only that, but it also made me question some of the perspectives I may have had about them as well.
This novel is an emotional roller-coaster that makes you hate and love its complex and multi-dimensional characters. It’s a story about motherhood, about the sacrifices that people often have to do in life, and the consequences those sacrifices may bring about. But it’s also a story that shows that in life, there are no right or wrong paths, but rather different ways of cruising through life.