book review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng


Penguin Press, September 12, 2017

Celeste Ng has done it again. Like her stunning debut, Everything I Never Told YouLittle Fires Everywhere is a book that grabs you from the first page, but it isn’t until you’re fully immersed in the story that you begin to realize what an accomplishment it is. There’s something about the careful construction of her novels that calls to mind a tapestry – how each element adroitly fits in to complement the whole.

The premise of this novel is this: Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl move to a small, progressive town in Ohio called Shaker Heights, where they befriend a wealthy family, the Richardsons. Meanwhile, one of Mia’s friends, a Chinese woman named Bebe, abandons her infant daughter in a fit of desperation in order to provide her with a better life. The Shaker Heights community is divided by the fate of this child, and Mrs. Richardson digs into Mia Warren’s past as a schism forms between them.

At its core, this is a book about motherhood, and I’ll be honest, that is usually not my favorite subject to read about. I’m burned out with the ‘how far would a parent go to protect their child’ premise – I think I read too many Jodi Picoult books in high school. But Little Fires Everywhere offers a subtler examination of this theme, which dovetails with several others – conformity, race, belonging, and the cost of community.

As always, Ng’s prose is light and effortless. She blends third person omniscient prose with an unnerving intimacy, drawing you into the heart and soul of her characters in a way that’s difficult to accomplish in such a short novel.

I didn’t put this novel down feeling quite as stunned and breathless as I had after Everything I Never Told You, but that’s only because Ng’s debut was such a tour de force. Little Fires Everywhere is an extraordinary follow up, just as intelligent and thought-provoking and nuanced as I knew Ng was capable of. Ng has solidified her position as an auto-buy author for me. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

4.5 stars – changed from 5 to 4 on Goodreads after a few days upon further reflection!

I chose this book as my September Book of the Month selection.  If you’re interested in checking out this great subscription service, use my referral link!

21 thoughts on “book review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng


      OH MY GOD I should not be surprised that you also read Jodi Picoult in high school since we’re basically the same person but this is still hilarious. I think I’ve read 12 of her books or something ridiculous like that 🤦🏻‍♀️ Never. Again.

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      • HAHAH even though her books were pretty good, they always had the same formula and I got so sick of it after a while. Also the content of her books was kind of depressing for a high schooler at times hahah. The Pact is one I wish I never read, that book was just SO DEPRESSING to read as a teenager.

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      • LOL THE PACT WAS LITERALLY MY FAVORITE ONE 😂 I know what you mean though, I was definitely too young to be reading that at 15… that is just typical me though, go straight for the most depressing one.

        Like she’s a good writer but GOD the formula to her books is ridiculous!!!!! Right down to the inclusion of a romantic subplot in every single one which I always hated. There were some good ones though… other than The Pact I remember really liking My Sister’s Keeper, Salem Falls, Second Glance, Nineteen Minutes… I loved that so many of her books were set in New England too. I think she’s a bit too chick-lit for my tastes now and I’ve just completely burned out on her, but we had some good times.

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      • LOL I had a feeling you’d say you loved The Pact, hahahahah. It was a very gripping read, I’ll definitely give it that, but I think I was like 14 and read it just before I went into high school and it was A LOT. But omg all those books you listed are all the ones I read I think?? Maybe there is one or two more?? I really liked My Sister’s Keeper and I think my favorite was Second Glance because I really liked the supernatural vibe/aspect of that one (even though the trial debunked everything ofc). I’ve always been really impressed by her ability to turn out such a number of thoroughly written and researched books, I will say. I was interested my the premise of her latest book, I think about a black woman who saves a white baby’s life against its parents’ wishes, but still………I couldn’t do it. I’m burned out for life. And I know what you mean about the chick-litness of her books, I think that also turns me off these days.

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      • LOL I AM NOTHING IF NOT PREDICTABLE. But okay yeah 14 is definitely pushing it. I think I read it when I was 15 which was probably still too young tbh, but any younger and I think I would have had a very different reaction to it. I also think a lot of it would have gone over my head?? I felt like I was just barely old enough to understand the sexual assault stuff, since that was done so subtly.

        I LOVED Second Glance, I remember really liking the protagonist in that one and I loved the supernatural vibe too. Also one thing I loved was that she used the same characters across different books, I remember really loving Jordan McAfee but tbh I probably couldn’t tell you why. I totally agree with being impressed by her research! Ohh is that what her new book was about? I knew it had something to do with racism but I didn’t even look into it because YEAH that Jodi burnout is so real.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Omg I really wonder how I would enjoy that book now. Too bad I can never read another one of her books again, never mind reread one lol.

        I remember being unusually fond of her characters in Second Glance too??? Her plots were addictive but I don’t remember LOVING too many of her characters, but that was a good one.

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  1. I am so ridiculously excited about this book! I know we both loved her debut so much and had high expectations, so I’m thrilled that Little Fires Everwhere lived up to the hype! I’m on the library holds list, hopefully in October I’ll be able to read this one.

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