Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review
After reading Everything I Never Told You earlier in the year, Little Fires Everywhere instantaneously became one of my most anticipated releases for the second half of 2017. Little Fires Everywhere has all the elements that made Celeste Ng’s debut novel a triumph: an intimate examination of the relationships between family members, a nuanced portrayal of the various choices we make in life and where they lead us, and a riveting interplay between conformity and those who defies convention.
Little Fires Everywhere is set in Shaker’s Heights, an idyllic neighbourhood so distinctly confident with its orderly lifestyle that its motto is ‘Most communities just happen; the best are planned.’ Mrs Elena Richardson proudly lives by these words, and following rules have paid off in the form of a secure home in one of Shaker’s Heights more affluent neighbourhood – complete with a loving husband and four healthy teen children. The certainties in the Richardson’s lives are challenged when artist Mia Warren and her teen daughter, Pearl, moves into Shaker’s Heights. The dynamics between the two families create some tantalising conflicts which will unravel mysterious pasts and missed opportunities.
I am in complete awe of Celeste Ng’s writing style. Once again, she manages to masterfully weave an engaging family drama into a classic mystery set-up. Her understated sentences are artful in their ability to convey powerful emotions through few words. The repeated use of the imagery of fires and photography interspersed throughout the text felt integral rather than pretentious. I am especially impressed by how the ending felt inevitable, with every event and character so inextricably linked – I could see no other fitting conclusion.
Like Celeste Ng’s previous novel, Little Fires Everywhere goes beyond mysteries and family drama, it’s also a nuanced examination of privilege. The subplot featuring Bebe Chow, the McCulloughs, and the transracial adoption, was beautifully handled. Ng’s subtle criticism to the kind of racism that ‘don’t see colour’ remains one of my favourite things about the novel. The book also delves deep into the various relationships between mother and daughter, never giving the readers the easy answer – but igniting a spark for us to question our own perceptions.
The characters within this novel felt so distinct, I could have sworn they are real although I only got to know them through a mere 370 pages. Although Mrs Richardson, Mia, and Pearl, received the lion’s share of the character development – I also found myself caring for the rest of the Richardson family despite their limited page-time. Mrs Richardson was especially well-crafted, whenever I read about her, I felt simultaneously frustrated and ashamed – perhaps because I see some of myself in her.
As you can tell, I adored the book and would highly recommend this powerful novel to everyone reading this review! Go forth to your nearest bookseller and get this on your shelf ASAP!