Author: Celeste Ng
Read: Oct. 2017
Celeste Ng is at it again!! I loved her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, and she totally blew me away again with Little Fires Everywhere. In fact, I liked this one even better than her debut novel!
Like Everything I Never Told You, this is a slow-paced, character driven novel. Ng spends time on every single one of her characters, showing us their dreams and fears, their strengths and flaws. At times the characters are so frustrating, but they are always fascinating.
There’s a lot going on in this book. The Richardson family, with their four children, have lived their entire lives in the Shaker Heights community just outside of Cleveland. Shaker Heights prides itself on being a planned city and regulates everything about the city, from the colour you can paint your house, to the time you’re allowed to go trick-or-treating, to when and how often teens receive sex-ed classes in school.
Struggling artist Mia and her daughter Pearl have just moved to Shaker Heights and are renting from the Richardson’s. Without meaning to, their lives become incredibly intertwined with the Richardson’s and as the story unravels, we learn that everyone has their secrets and that with so many secrets, it’s hard to stop all the little fires from spreading.
Ng weaves questions of class and race throughout the novel that really bring her characters and her setting to life. Shaker Heights has always maintained their mantra that they “don’t see colour”, but when a court case arises around the custody of a young Asian child, the community is polarized and it becomes harder to deny that despite what everyone says, race and class still matter.
This novel felt almost like a Shakespearean tragedy. Everyone is so consumed with their own lives and secrets – trying to contain their personal fires – that the plot felt like an out of control train barrelling towards a broken bridge. The people inside the train are so caught up in their own drama that they don’t even realize they’re careening towards their impending doom.
But I loved every second of it. Ng’s writing is what makes this such a huge win. Not only has she written a fascinating drama and character study, but she has penned some truly beautiful prose. There is a lot of depth to this story and I would definitely recommend this book!