book review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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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!

top 5 wednesday: Authors You Want to Read More From

Top Five Wednesday was created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Check out the goodreads group to learn more.

April 26th: Authors You Want to Read More From: Talk about some authors that you’ve only read one or a few books from, and you NEED to read more!

For this week’s topic I decided to focus on authors who’ve only written one or two books, as opposed to prolific authors like Shakespeare who I should get around to reading more of one of these days. Instead, all of the authors I’ve chosen I hope will publish more in the future!  Also, all women, because why not.

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Hanya Yanagihara: Of her two novels, The People in the Trees and A Little Life, I’ve only read the latter, but it had such a profound effect on me that I won’t even hesitate to call her one of my favorite authors. I’ve heard mixed reviews of The People in the Trees but I do intend to get around to it one of these days. Regardless, anything she publishes in the future I won’t even hesitate to pre-order.  Her prose flows with an effortless beauty, and the characters she creates are flawed and sympathetic.  A Little Life was almost painfully bleak and difficult to read, but it was also one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read.

 

994Hannah Kent: Kent’s debut novel Burial Rites was published in 2013, and her sophomore novel, The Good People, comes out in the fall in the US. I’m really looking forward to it. With Burial Rites, Kent managed to combine historical and literary fiction – two of my favorite genres – to create a story that was both atmospheric and emotionally devastating. I absolutely loved it and can’t wait to read her new one.

 

celeste-ng-c-kevin-day-photographyCeleste Ng: Another one with a new novel coming out in the fall! Ng’s debut, Everything I Never Told You, was an absolutely outstanding little book, which I found to be a masterclass in intricate storytelling. I actually have an e-galley of her new novel, Little Fires Everywhere, and I can’t wait to get around to it! I think even if I hate it (which I doubt I will), I’ll still read anything Ng does in the future, because an outstanding novel like Everything I Never Told You can’t possibly be a fluke. This woman is a genius.

 

caitedolanleach.jpgCaite Dolan-Leach: Her debut, Dead Letters which I read recently, is the quintessential ‘love it or hate it’ kind of book – but I loved it. I thought Dolan-Leach’s writing was so clever, and it suited the story flawlessly. She had such a distinct style in this book, and I’m mainly curious to see if and how she’d change it up in the future.  Also, as Dead Letters was a ‘literary mystery,’ I’m curious which of those two genres she’ll pursue in the future, or if she’ll continue on with more literary-mystery hybrids.  Whatever she decides to do, I’m sure I’ll love it.

 

nightshotsmallerKatharine Beutner: And finally, a relatively unknown author… Beutner’s debut, Alcestis, a lesbian retelling of the Euripides play of the same name, was published in 2010, and she hasn’t come out with anything since. I didn’t love Alcestis unconditionally, but I thought Beutner’s prose was outstanding and she showed so much promise for a new writer. Plus, I’m really interested in retellings of Greek mythology (and especially retellings such as this one which included an LGBT twist as well as a lot of feminist aspects), so if she decides to write something similar in the future, I would love to read it!

Which authors do you guys hope will publish more in the future?  Or, alternately, which published authors do you hope to read more from?  Comment and let me know!