32020May

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, New York : Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2017.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The title Little Fires Everywhere may sound familiar due to its recent release as a mini-series on the streaming service Hulu. The novel, written by Celeste Ng and published in 2017, focuses on two families living in the affluent Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights in the late 1990s:  the well-off Richardsons and their four teenage children, and single mom/ traveling artist, Mia Warren, and her daughter Pearl. At the beginning of the novel, Pearl and Mia move to Shaker Heights and rent a property from the Richardsons.

The novel opens with a house fire, labeled as arson because of the small fires started throughout the house. The novel then flashes back several months to build up to the events that caused that fire.

Pearl Warren is accustomed to her transient lifestyle. Her mom Mia never wants to live in one place for longer than a few months, and though she loves Pearl fiercely, she is often absorbed in her art, and works additional side jobs to make ends meet. The Richardson’s middle son, Moody, develops a crush on Pearl and the two become good friends. Pearl is drawn to the Richardson’s beautiful home, stable family environment, and especially Elena Richardson and her loving and “normal” mothering style. Despite Moody’s interest in Pearl, she develops a crush on his older brother Tripp, and idolizes his sister Lexie. Meanwhile, the youngest Richardson daughter, Izzy, doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere and is resentful of her parents, especially her mother. Mia’s reserved demeanor appeals to Izzy and the two bond over their mutual passion for art.

When Elena Richardson condescendingly offers Mia a housekeeping job, Mia and Pearl are drawn further into the Richardson family and their layers of secrets. Mia has her own secrets, and in turn, Elena uses her career as a reporter to investigate Mia’s dark past.

A backdrop for the ensuing drama involves Mia’s coworker who gave up a baby that is now in the process of being adopted by the Richardson’s good friends, resulting in a bitter custody battle that shakes the entire neighborhood and pits Mia and Elena on opposite sides.

The tender themes of motherhood, family loyalty, economic status, racial perceptions, community bonds, and teenage love are explored in this tense and poignant novel.

Readers who enjoy Jodi Picoult or Megan Abbot will enjoy this engrossing domestic drama, as well as Celeste Ng’s debut novel, Everything I Never Told You.

Jenna Beers is a Library Assistant at Graham Public Library. She can be reached at (336) 570-6730 or jbeers@alamancelibraries.org.