Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

With Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng’s debut novel, I knew I was going to read every book she writes from then on. So when Little Fires Everywhere came out, I had to have it. Unfortunately, I did not have time to pick it up immediately as I would have, but while on my week off from work, I decided to use the time to read, and Little Fires Everywhere was the only book I managed to read quite quickly. It was fast paced, deeply engrossing and equally full of characters to love and hate dislike.

It starts off on a high with the Richardson’s house burning down and their youngest daughter to blame for starting the fire. Intentionally. So how did things go so horribly wrong in this seemingly perfect family living in the picture perfect Shaker Heights? This novel explores the family dynamics of the Richardson family and the society they live in. It also chronicles the life of the rich and privilege in the community as well as the poor.

Mia and her daughter, Pearl, moves to Shaker Heights where Elena Richardson rents out her home to them for a very reasonable price, feeling that she is helping those less privileged. Her relationship with her new tenants starts off well, so well that her children become very good friends with Pearl. Soon their lives are completely intertwined with Elena’s youngest daughter looking up to Mia as a mother and Pearl feeling more at home in the Richardson’s house than her own.

What could have been a great friendship between the families goes sour when Elena’s best friend adopts a Chinese born baby. When the baby’s mother wants custody of her daughter back, Shaker Heights are divided and the two families are also on opposite sides. To have different opinions should not be such a problem, but when Elena discovers that Mia had something to do with the custody battle, she turns on her completely.

With their friendship over, the dynamics changes. There is spiteful behavior, digging up others’ past for blackmail and it just becomes ugly there on out. The story moves forward showcasing how their relationship changes, but it also highlights the struggle of the other secondary characters, such as the baby’s mother. A quick look into her past, her difficulties adjusting to a new lifestyle and a single mother and her fight for her child is heartbreaking. How her story comes to a close is bittersweet and unfortunately you’ll have to read the book to know that. My opinion is that despite the ways she went about it, I like how HER story ended (of course I pity the other party, but…)

Now, with these two families having conflict, it’s not that easy for the children. The kids has established their own unique relationships between the adults and the kids of the other family and it’s hard for them to choose or rather let go. But what I admired was Pearl’s unwavering friendship to Lizzy, and unknowingly took the blame for something she didn’t have to. Digging into someone’s past or present (private) life really brings nothing but trouble and this story is testament to that. Everything that happened and blown up was started by someone who sparked a little fire.

I won’t drag out this review any longer: I loved it. I enjoyed this novel more than I did her debut novel! And just like with her first, I still feel like I will read whatever book Celeste Ng comes out with. I adored this book, it really was a good and engrossing read. You won’t want to put it down.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Jonathan Ball publishers for review consideration

  • Celestine Nudanu

    Poignant review. Happy New Year, Melinda.

    • Thank you, Celeste. Happy new year to you too. I hope you’re well.

  • I just read her first book and have been curious about this one. Good to hear people are liking it. I love your site design by the way, really lovely!

    • I like this one more 🙂

      Thanks for the compliment, Jenn!