Celeste Ng sets Little Fires Everywhere and I'm Here for It
“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning, the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”
If you read last week's review of Celeste Ng's novel, Everything I Never Told You, then you know Ng knows how to open a book. The opening of Little Fires Everywhere is no different. The story starts with a fire at the Richardson family home in Shaker Heights - a suburban subdivision straight out of Edward Scissorhands. Shaker Heights is among the planned communities in the suburban United States that are designed to keep people safe, comfortable, and removed from all the "problems" of urban living. At the time of the fire, all members of the Richardson family are accounted for except for Izzy, who it is assumed started the fire. She's known as the live wire out of all four of the Richardson children. Emotional. Impulsive. Opinionated. Crazy. There's no doubt in anyone's mind that she's the one to blame, but now she's disappeared.
Then, Ng takes us back to when Mia and her daughter Pearl moved into the Richardsons' rental home in Shaker Heights. Mia, a seemingly struggling artist, and her teenage daughter Pearl are nomads. If you've read Ng's work before, then you know she is a master at character study. If you're looking for a plot-driven book, then you must look elsewhere. Ng's stories are close examinations of people, family secrets, and prejudice. As the story moves along, the reader learns that Mia and Pearl move from city to city when Mia decides it's time for a change of scenery. Slowly, the story reveals the truth behind Mia and Pearl's relationship alongside a court case that divides the Shaker Heights community.
A young Asian woman struggling to provide for her daughter as she endures post-partum depression and the pressure of new motherhood in a life of poverty leaves her baby at a fire station. The mother has no recollection of this and wakes up on a park bench in the winter cold. The baby is considered to have been abandoned and put up for adoption to a couple (friends of the Richardsons) in the Shaker Heights community. The couple are thrilled and seek to provide for the baby. However, it comes to light that Mia knows the mother of the baby and tells her where the baby is. A court case ensues that divides the community - and possibly readers too - on who should be able to care for the little girl. Should the white couple with a big house and stable income be able to adopt her and give her a better life? Or can the young immigrant mother who obviously deeply regrets her actions be given a second chance to care and provide for her daughter?
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“Most of the time, everyone deserves more than one chance. We all do things we regret now and then. You just have to carry them with you.”
As all this is going on, Ng provides us a window into the lives of each of the four Richardson children. Growing up in a life of privelege has its hang-ups. The children are often viewed as one way by their parents, especially their mother. But they each have individual lives that they're struggling to navigate. As teenagers, their experiences are heightened by hormones and emotions, which magnifies every slight and misstep. They each have secrets that drive them to make decisions, good and bad. There are little fires raging within each family member and some are smoldering while others begin in a rage.
I listened to the audiobook version of Little Fires Everywhere and absolutely loved it. Although it was a bit slow at first, once I got past Chapter 5 I couldn't stop listening. I love an audiobook that forces me to listen while I am cleaning or cooking - those are the best stories and Ng is a skilled storyteller that will have you reading or listening late into the night.
This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on LovelyAudiobooks.info
Have you read Little Fires Everywhere? Will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know in the comments!