Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
“The firemen said there were little fires everywhere,” Lexie said. “Multiple points of origin. Possible use of accelerant. Not an accident.” (pg. 7)
I’ll be honest. I picked up this book because the cover was beautiful. Aesthetic appeal is 90% of what drives me to new titles, and when I found out I could get it cheaper at Costco than on Amazon (a rarity!), it earned me another look from my dad as I put it in our buggy. He added it to my tab *insert upside down smiley face emoji*
But Little Fires Everywhere is so much more than just a looker. It’s set in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, in 1998. I was immediately excited to learn more about a city that I spent very little time in while I was a student in Ohio at The Ohio State University. In this pristine community, run by an exacting set of rules both spoken and unspoken, everything is always supposed to go according to plan and bad things only happen to those who don’t follow the plan. When Mia Warren and her fifteen year old daughter, Pearl, move into Elena Richardson’s rental property, they inadvertently disrupt the perfect equilibrium that Mrs. Richardson had worked her whole life to build for herself and her family.
Mrs. Richardson’s four children, Lexie, Trip, Moody, and Izzy each develop different kinds of relationships with Mia and Pearl, and for the Richardson kids, they represent a kind of break from the rigid perfection of their world. For Moody, who first becomes the closest to Pearl as they are just each other’s age, there was a clear before and after, “and he would always be comparing the two” (21). Moody’s close comeraderie with Pearl is mirrored by Izzy’s titillating love for Mia. She sees her as the mother she’s always wanted, and her devotion to Mia grows deep.
I included the quote from Lexie at the top of this because I think that it highlights the crux of the book in a very succinct way. Origin and the question of where we come from drives the conflict of the novel. Mrs. Richardson becomes obsessed with figuring Mia and Pearl out, and in her mission to expose Mia, she unearths dark truths about herself and her own family.
The lens of the novel also examines motherhood and the many forms it can take. At it’s center lie two women, both mothers, who are opposites of each other in many ways. Mrs. Richardson has worked her whole life to fulfill the exact steps of her carefully laid plans. Mia truly goes with the flow of her whims; uprooting and moving whenever an art project is finished. The women find themselves on opposing sides of a child custody battle for a Chinese American baby that divides the entire town of Shaker Heights as well, and Mrs. Richardson’s wariness of anyone who does not subscribe to her way of planning leads her even further into her investigation of Mia’s past.
Full of questions about place, identity, and family, Little Fires Everywhere is a captivating read. It examines how where and who we come from shapes our journey and who we ultimately end up becoming. Ng somehow manages to take this story about small town, suburban Ohio and apply it to a much larger picture of the world. Pick this one up folks. You definitely won’t regret it. Also, I saw on Instagram that Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington are bringing this title to the big screen, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments what you thought! I wanna know if you loved it as much as I did. 🙂