Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Genre: Adult Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is a story that will leave readers smitten. It is filled with several scenarios that bury deep into the intricacies of life, and bring about several questions such as what it means to be a mother, where the line should be divided between neighbor and friend, and how far one should be willing to go to pursue their dreams. The novel explores definitions of love and family, and what it means to sacrifice it all on a whim. It confronts the brutal realities of life and leaves cracks on the surface of the layers we often choose to protect ourselves with, for the sake of avoiding questions about who we are , and who we are to those around us.
At its core, Little Fires Everywhere is about an unconventional artist and mother, Mia, whose gypsy-like ways lead her and her fifteen-year-old daughter, Pearl, in their little Rabbit car all over America, never settling in one place for longer than it takes for Mia to go off in search of her next muse. However, this time will be different. Mia promises that this time, they will settle in the prim and perfect Shaker Heights, Ohio. They rent a small and adequate place from the just-as-perfect Richardson family – a family that seems to have it all – grand house, prospering careers, flawless children with exception of one reckless outcast. All appears well to any outsider watching the family from afar. But look a little closer, and you’ll notice something is amiss; something, some form of love and instability is lacking from this all too exemplary family.
Shaker Heights is the illusion of a perfect town and the Richardson family is the inevitable output of the rules, regulations, and standards that have been set within this lost society’s perimeters. Izzy, the youngest of the Richardson children is seen asa mistake,a recluse, a troublesome teenager with her head in the wrong place. To anyone else though, she is an intelligent child of ideas and dreams of getting away, of discovering places bigger than her imagination, and bright worlds she can contribute to instead of being molded from. The three other Richardson children consists of Moody who is introspective and develops and instant friendship with Pear, Trip, a girl magnet, and Lexie, the oldest, a popular and pretty girl with dreams bigger than herself.
The presence of Mia and Pearl turns this cookie cutter town, lost in America’s midwest, topsy turvy, turning characters in on themselves, making them aware of the all too confined world they are living in, an the world of possibilities just beyond their reach. Mia and Mrs. Richardson are the complete antithesis of each other. Mia’s life is scattered and she drifts where her art leads her. Mrs. Richardson, Elena, has been planning her life since she was a child: succeed in high school, go to a nearby university, meet a nice man, get married, return to Shaker Heights, start and raise a family. For now, this is all that her world revolves around and her imagination can reach. It doesn’t take long after Mia and Pearl arrive that this streak is broken and the family’s flaws are revealed.
The little fires that burn within each of the characters highlights the battles they must confront and ultimately figure out how to resolve. Each of the characters are so different that it is these discrepancies that turn one character against another that highlights their importance to the storyline. With opposing perspectives and juxtapositions formed between characters and events, I was left stunned and overall, enchanted at how the author was able to change my mentality and the prepositions I had about family and love at the beginning of the novel, to something vastly different by the end. The novel has a raw, and emotional power of readers, influencing them towards a direction of empathy in a way that they are lead to relate to many of the novel’s events in their own life. Little Fires Everywhere is a truly immersive novel that sparks readers’ analytical side – the perfect book club sort of read.
(Book image credits go to Goodreads)