“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”
Author: Celeste Ng Published: 2017 Pages: 338 Rating: 5 stars
Oh how I loved this book.
This is a beautifully written story and is by far the most engrossing read of 2018 by far. It’s slow-pace may not be for everyone. However, it didn’t take me long to be captivated by its intricate detail and character-driven plot.
Little Fires Everywhere opens with a burning house which has been lighted up with ‘little fires everywhere’. During the aftermath, child rebel Izzy Richardson is the only one not present, thus she is the one her family suspects of arson. However, despite its gripping start, the story doesn’t focus on the fire but the lives and revelations within the small utopian-like neighbourhood of Shaker Heights.
After the first chapter, the story rewinds to a year before, presenting us with tangled relationships, family dynamics and long-held secrets which all inevitably unveil themselves. Mother and daughter, Mia and Pearl move into the neighbourhood and over the course of the story, we witness how their arrival changes the lives of the Richardson family. The perfect family with the perfect house and the perfect values.
When a novel has as many characters as this one does, it’s easy for me to lose track or for them to be under-developed and one dimensional, bringing little to the story. However, in Little Fires Everywhere, every secondary character has a pertinent part to play in influencing how events unfold. Ng gives us an insight into the lives of even the smallest of characters, from Mia’s old photography teacher to the lawyer defending the custody case. Meanwhile, Ng puts each of the main characters under a microscope, revealing their backstories, giving them great depth as we gradually peel back their layers. I went from despising characters to pitying them, rooting for so many while simultaneously feeling sympathy for others.
“It came, over and over, down to this: What made someone a mother? Was it biology alone, or was it love?”
Little Fires Everywhere tackles the complex issues of race and ethnicity, the secret lives of teenagers, and motherhood. In particular, it makes us question: what does it mean to be a mother? How much control does a mother have over their child? Is it enough to smother a baby with toys and wealth? Or are they better off with their birth parent, despite having so little? It is this controversy which divides the utopian, happy-go-lucky town where the sun shines bright and everything is meticulously planned. It causes disputes between the closest of friends, married couples and the racism which lies beneath the surface reveals that the town isn’t so perfect after all.
This story tied up so beautifully. Ng paints pictures with her words which I couldn’t ever tire of reading making her a firm instant buy for me from now on.
“It was like training yourself to live on the smell of an apple alone, when what you really wanted was to devour it, to sink your teeth into it and consume it, seeds, core, and all.”
If you don’t mind a novel that is slow-paced and isn’t smothered with non-stop drama, you will find this character-driven novel engrossing and emotional. Its infectious writing will grip you from the start. How do I feel regarding the town’s controversy? Well like the neighbourhood itself, I myself am divided, and I think I always will be.
You can find more about the book here on Goodreads.
I couldn’t recommend this book more. Thanks for reading!