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 You, Little 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!