Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

5/5 Stars
Reviewed by: Annie
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Published by: Penguin Press, September 12th 2017
Pages: 338

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The Richardson house is a perfectly manicured, perfectly maintained home for a perfect family with a perfect life, and it’s on fire.

The Richardson family are the cookie cutter ideal of the American Dream. Successful careers, athletic, attractive and intelligent children, all settled in pristine house nestled in a pristine neighbourhood.

When nomadic artist Mia Warren and her fifteen-year-old daughter Pearl move into the Richardson’s rental home, the two families become intertwined in an instant and complicated way.

The two women at the head of the story, Mrs. Richardson and Mia Warren, could not be more dissimilar. Mrs. Richardson, a lifelong tenant of their quaint neighbourhood Shaker Heights, lives meticulously and intentionally, driven always by the need to colour within the lines of her perfectly drawn life. Mia on the other hand, jumps from city to city, chasing inspiration for her art and fleeing immediately at any sign of trouble – or of the fear of her past coming secrets coming to light.

When family friends of the Richardsons’ become caught up in a custody battle to adopt a Chinese American baby, the Richardsons and the Warrens are caught on opposite sides of what they both believe to be a morality issue. Both determined to defend their side, tempestuous secrets are brought to light that question the foundation of both families.  

Celeste Ng does a beautiful job of illustrating the complexities of maternal instincts and its many faces. The title, Little Fires Everywhere, could not be more fitting. The story follows multiple and equally important storylines, each a slow burning ember creeping closer and together. Even seemingly insignificant characters move the plot in intentional and important ways. Ng carefully builds each character into full development, some in a matter of only a few pages. A true skill.

One thing I loved about Little Fires Everywhere were the multiple questions of morality it posed that left me thinking on more than one occasion ‘what would I have done if I were in that situation’. There is no clear-cut right and wrong answer in really any of the situations the book presented. I still don’t know which side of the court case I was on, but absolutely loved the resolution at the end.

The characters were complex and beautiful. I often find myself clinging to the perspective of one character and in this case that character was Moody. He had an integral part in connecting the lives of both families, and somehow was cast aside when it really counted. Izzy was another character that resonated with me, her, and her attachment to Mia and their relationship.

I’m the type of reader who needs someone to recommend me a book before I commit my time and money to a story. Since this book was on both Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club list AND was a Heather’s Pick, I knew I couldn’t go wrong. Oh, and Jodi Picoult said she read it in one sitting so I was like, Jodi, I trust you, let’s dive in.  

Do yourself a favour and pick up Little Fires Everywhere as quickly as you can.

Reviewed by: Annie


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