Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is going to be made into a mini-series by Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, and for that, we are lucky. It took me so long to review this novel mainly because I suck at life sometimes, but trust me, I whizzed through the book itself. Reading this novel was one of the few times this year that I have stayed up late to get just one more chapter in before bed. Remember those days of reading Harry Potter books with a flashlight under your comforter because it was 2 AM and you had school the next day so your mom BETTER not catch you still awake? Basically, me reading this book.

The novel follows Mia and Pearl, the mother (and photographer) and daughter who move into a quiet neighborhood in Shaker Heights, OH where they rent an apartment from a wealthy, All-American family, the Richardsons. The title is both literal and figurative, as we learn in the opening of the novel that the Richardsons’ home has burned down in an apparent arson, as there was not just one source of the fire, but rather, there were several little fires everywhere.

The novel then rewinds and spends the rest of its breadth chronicling how it was that we got to the smouldering morning of the fire, and how it was that Mia, Pearl, Mrs. Richardson, and her daughter Izzy set little fires everywhere in their own lives and in each others’. Pearl’s very existence, for example, was a conflagration in the lives of many people. Celeste Ng builds the plot so expertly that you arrive at logical conclusions before you even realize the destination, but once you’re there, you see that it could never be any other way. It’s already so difficult for a writer today to take a reader any place unexpectedly, but to be able to do so without the reader feeling cheated or cheapened is a serious accomplishment.

Don’t expect to like all of the characters in Little Fires Everywhere. Don’t expect to understand every decision that a character makes, even a character that you like. It’s basically like…life, ya know? There were some points in the novel where I was asking the characters, as if they could answer me, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?! The point isn’t that I thought some of the decisions and thought-processes were completely ridiculous—the point is that the characters felt alive enough for me to scream at.

This year has been up and down for me in terms of books that have come highly recommended by a number of people. Some of them have lived up to the hype, but even more of them have exposed for me just how different my tastes can be from those of the people around me. On this novel, however, most of America and I agree! Come on, mini-series!

-Dij

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