Little Fires Everywhere is an engrossing read, set in what at first glance appears to be a surburban paradise. A cast of fully engaging, perfectly rounded-out characters make for a compelling but slow-moving story.
Elena Richardson is a journalist, a homemaker, a wife and mother, and Shaker Heights, the suburb of Cleveland where she grew up and is raising her family, is her perfect habitat. Everything is meticulously planned, and everyone plays by the rules, even when they don’t.
Mia Warren, an enigmatic artist and single mother, arrives to rent a house from the Richardsons, and moves in with her teenage duaghter Pearl. Very soon, the two families, so different in their make-up and outlook, begin to weave themselves into each others’ lives; Pearl becomes friends with the Richardson children, Mia begins domestic work for the family, and develops a relationship with Izzie, the youngest Richardson daughter, long since marked out as the black sheep.
The novel begins with a fire destroying the Richardson house, and from there the action takes us back to the day that Mia and Pearl arrived in Shaker Heights. The story weaves a slow-moving and insightful journey through the six months that elapse between their arrival and the fire, and the reader is left guessing as to what will come next. A custody battle involving a Chinese-American baby provides the catalyst for the drama, leaving Elena and Mia on opposing sides of what they see as a moral battle.
This is the first Celeste Ng book I have read, despite hearing nothing but praise for her debut novel Everything I Never Told You. I just love how absorbing this story is; all the time I was reading it, whenever I had to put it down to do something I else, I just wanted to head back to spend time with these characters. They aren’t all likable, but they are so well written that they feel entirely real. The setting of Shaker Heights feels just slightly oppressive, but is written about with a knowing tone; the idea that you’d get a fine for leaving your lawn uncut for too long is written about humourously and we are encouraged to roll our eyes at this kind of autocratic dictate.
Now that I’ve fallen hook, line and sinker for Ng’s writing, I’m going to be seeking out Everything I Never Told You.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Publication Date: 9th November 2017
Provided by publisher