• tomefries

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Updated: Feb 14, 2020

Summary: The Richardson's are a family of planning and rules, like the rest of Shaker Heights, but their new tenants are seemingly unconventional. As the Richardson children become more involved with Mia and Pearl, their way of life changes and secrets are exposed.

Review: I have seen this book at the top of so many lists that I had to see what all the buzz was about. Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to my expectations. (More like little fires in pretty much one place. Definitely not enough arson for this title.)

It started out interesting enough, with the burning of the Richardson's house and the family blaming it on the black sheep, Izzy, but then it goes into a slow progression of exposition. While the backstory was an important narrative to build up to the main plot, it seemed to go on without a point and, just like her family, skipped over Izzy for the most part. ("Oh, and Izzy is somewhere. Probably in her room listening to Liz Phair, Alanis, or one of those other angry chicks in her Doc Martens. The rebel.") She didn't seem to even have a place in the story until much later.

Eventually, though, the story starts to pick up when the catalyst that really sets the story into motion erupts; the custody battle of May Ling/Mirabelle. But, right as everything is gaining momentum, the story takes a leap into the past for two chapters for more exposition.

After this detour, it does finally get back to the main plot. From there it stays and wraps up beautifully, almost enough to make you forget the lag and side-stepping. (It's like if google maps wrote a book. Sure the scenic route was nice, but couldn't I have just taken the main road?)

What is praiseworthy is that Ng didn't shy away from diving headfirst into thought-provoking and controversial subjects. I found myself torn between Bebe and the McCulloughs, as both seemed so deserving of that little bundle of sweetness. (If only the baby were a Kit-Kat bar!)

The narration gave the perspective of all the characters along the way, which created a deep empathy, even when you didn't agree with their actions. There were a lot of characters to get pulled into though, and at one point Lexi's boyfriend's parents seem to switch names for a moment. (Who are John and Deborah? Did the son just call them different names for some weird reason?)

From surrogacy, adoption, and abortion, Ng examines the difficult choices that many women face with pregnancy and motherhood. Even up through raising teenagers, Ng asks the question, is there a "right" way to parent? (Mrs. Richardson reminds me of one of those "breast is best" moms who loves to tell other moms their failings while their bratty toddler is throwing sand in another kid's face.)

While it's not making my top 10, it definitely was a good book that I enjoyed. It made me reflect on my own parenting and choices, which I don't usually find myself doing after a book. (Except maybe Harry Potter. "If I lock him in a closet and am super mean all the time, maybe he'll discover his magical powers!"....I didn't, just to be clear.)


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