Little Fires Everywhere” This was one of the books I read in May. This book is one book you should go into expecting what it is: a slow – moving portrait with a lot of complex family dynamics and small town politics. Nothing fast paced or high-octane drama. I started reading expecting a very exciting read because of the buzz it created but at first it was a little dry and I dropped it for another book before returning to it and then couldn’t drop it till the very end… That was how engrossing this book was. This is my first book by Celeste Ng but it most definitely won’t be my last. .
OOF! This book. I never wanted it to end.
Let’s start by talking about the characters.
Mia Warren – Mother of Pearl, artist, photographer, mentor to Izzy, comforter to Lexie, nemesis to Elena. I love Mia’s character. She’s a fascinating person. And while she makes decisions that are hard to agree with, I understand them.
Pearl Warren – Daughter of Mia, thoughtful and reserved. Exhausted from the instability of their nomadic lifestyle, she admires Elena Richardson because she is all that she craves: stable and structured.
Elena Richardson – Mother of four, part-time journalist and wife to successful lawyer Mr. Richardson. Most importantly, she’s the landlord to Mia, which is how the two characters intersect.
Shaker Heights – The town itself is also a character. Idyllic, quaint and tight-knit. It is the backdrop of the ensemble piece that is Little Fires Everywhere.
Everything in Shaker Heights is planned and there are rules that residents must follow. Houses can only be painted certain colors (to ensure aesthetic harmony), garbage is never put out in front of the house, lawns must always be cut promptly, etc.
The city motto says it all:
The Shaker Heights motto is: “Most communities just happen; the best are planned “: the underlying philosophy being that everything could – and should- be planned out, and that by doing so you could avoid the unseemly, the unpleasant, and the disastrous.” The truth is that life happens and no matter what – things cannot be avoided and what happens here defies this underlying philosophy.
When Mia Warren and her fifteen year old daughter, Pearl rent a home from the Richardsons, a prominent Shaker Heights family – their lives will become intertwined in ways they never could have imagined.
Mrs. Richardson liked to rent to people she felt were deserving of her help, people who may have had some tough turns in life. She felt it was her way of giving back. When she first meets Mia Warren and her daughter she thinks they are the perfect tenants.
One of the Richardson boys, Moody is curious about the new tenants and heads over to the rental property. Moody and Pearl hit it off immediately. Moody who has never wanted for anything, is surprised at how this mother and daughter make their way. Mia can stretch a dollar (and leftover food) farther than anyone he’s ever seen. It’s not long before Moody brings Pearl home to meet everyone. Soon Pearl is spending much of her time at the Richardson home. At first, everything is fantastic. Mrs. Richardson even hires Mia to do some housekeeping and cooking at the Richardson home. But it won’t be long before the many differences between Mia and Mrs. Richardson cause a divide that will affect the two families in unimaginable ways.
In some ways, I felt bad for Pearl as the nomadic life that her mother had them living would be hard on anyone, especially a teenage girl. However, Pearl also seemed to benefit from the way they lived. At first, Mia came across as incredibly selfish but it wasn’t long before I loved her. Her caring ways were evident and how she responded to the different crises that came up endeared her to me. I may not have agreed with all of her choices but I could certainly see how she would have made them.
Right off the bat I was irked by Mrs. Richardson (the fact that she was rarely referred to by her first name was fitting). Mrs. Richardson was the type who wanted to be seen as someone who cared and helped others. However, you could tell right away that she kept track of all the good things she had done. And you never knew when Mrs. Richardson would want a repayment of her “kindness”. When she offers to buy one of Mia’s photographs and Mia doesn’t fall at her feet with gratitude…
“That’s very generous of you.” Mia’s eyes slid toward the window briefly and Mrs. Richardson felt a twinge of irritation at this lukewarm response to her philanthropy.
Izzy was a firecracker and I adored her impulsiveness and strong feelings about right and wrong. Even at ten years old, setting shelter cats free“They’re like prisoners on death row” , her refusal to conform was thrilling. Mrs. Pissers and the toothpick incident had me giggling. And I hurried to Google to search “This Be The Verse” by Philip Larkin.
There was a lot going on in “Little Fires Everywhere” but I found it easy to keep up. I will say that it had a bit of a slow start but I feel the author was just setting the stage for all that was to come. And once I hit the halfway mark, I was so completely invested into all of their lives and HAD to know what was going to happen next.
The additional story-line of little Mirabelle McCullough/May Ling Chow’s adoption was incredibly thought provoking and had me asking myself some hard questions. I honestly didn’t know which side I was on half the time. My head was spinning.
“What made someone a mother? Was it biology alone, or was it love?”
I obviously was on the side of Bebe and was SO happy she took that baby to China BUT what I loved about this book is that it showed the opposite side. It made me feel conflicted. I felt sad for that woman for not being able to conceive and for everything she went through.
I thought that the development of the characters was fantastic. With so many characters and only so many pages, it takes skill to bring them all to life. And in my opinion; Celeste Ng did a phenomenal job. And with the many 90’s references such as Sir-Mix-a-lot, Smashing Pumpkins, Jerry Springer, and Monica Lewinsky.
This was an intriguing and compelling domestic drama. A story about motherhood, adolescence, race, rules, right and wrong, and so much more. Great characters and an interesting plot made “Little Fires Everywhere” a fast and fantastic read.
I’m giving this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK? I would love to read your thoughts and opinions about the book so please leave a comment below and any contributions and I will be sure to add them to the blog post.