Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First Published: September 12th, 2017
Publisher: Penguin Press
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Adult, Fiction, Contemporary, Family Relationships
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 old family friends of the Richardsons 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 felt so invested in the characters.
Not at first. That’s what’s interesting. In the beginning, everyone looked the same to me. Everyone *felt* the same. I had trouble distinguishing characters from one another.
But then I started learning about their pasts and began to see people in a different light. Mia Warren, for instance, is extremely secretive. She isolates herself on purpose and moves from place to place on a regular basis. She doesn’t need much. All she really needs is Pearl and her art. I only knew what everyone knew about her – which wasn’t much.
So you can imagine my shock when I discovered what Mia Warren was running from. That is not what I expected. But I liked it. Sometimes we meet people who have their guards up and see how unwilling they are to share information about their lives and we think, ‘‘My God, that person is stuck-up.’’
And then, suddenly, opportunity arises for us to truly learn something about them and we begin to realize that people are more complicated than that.
Although, what I liked most about this book was actually the narration. The characters slowly go from zero to eight/nine as the story progresses, but the narration held my attention for the entire reading time. It was never manipulative. The subject matter is extremely delicate and controversial (whether a child should stay with her biological but poor and single mother or be handed to a rich, loving couple), and yet, I honestly considered both sides.
The author never says what is right or wrong – she describes what is happening, but she doesn’t tell us how to feel. The characters do the talking and many points of view are provided so that we are not forced to feel a certain way.
Even now, I’m not sure I could answer the question this book raises about the child in a definitive way. But I sure enjoyed the discussions around it.
It’s a slow book, that’s true. It took me longer than I’m willing to admit to read it, but it’s a worthwhile ride.
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