Cover Image: Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere

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Member Reviews

If you haven’t heard or even read Little Fires Everywhere by now, where have you been? It’s everywhere, rightfully so.

The aspect of motherhood was certainly so intriguing from the start. All of the relationships were unique in their own way, driving the plot forward and sometimes the characters more apart from each other, sometimes closer together. The way all of their stories were entangled was quite interesting to observe, everyone had their carefully selected spot in the bigger picture. For me, personally, I feel like it had a similar vibe to her other book, Everything I Never Told You, which I enjoyed even more. However, to me it seemed that the character’s weren’t able to communicate with each other very well, which resulted in many characters even at the end not knowing what others were going through.

All in all a lovely novel, which I definitely recommend reading!

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I absolutely adored this book, which was both a bit of a delightful surprise and the first step in laying a foundation of affection for everything that comes after this!

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It’s story not just of family, but specifically of family *bonds*, of all sorts, genetic, protective, alienating, comforting and at times feral and desperate. The families at the center of Celeste Ng’s novel are caught between struggles that stress those bonds, define those bonds, reveal those bonds and above all, make those bonds out to be the strongest forces in the world.

Some people may have too much, some may have too little, some may yearn to trade places with others, but each individual is defined by their family arrangements. Some may do it placidly, some feverishly, some at a distance and some with smothering intensity, but through Ng’s characters, it’s clear that human nature is to love.

(And as someone whose teen years spanned the same time frame of the novel, let me point out that Ng makes the 90s sing, with all the era’s vibrant contradictions serving as a wonderful backdrop to the story.)

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When LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE first launched last fall, I was not eager to read about fires since most of the state of California was going up in smoke. However, the fires in Ng’s novel are more interior, the embers of old secrets and tangled emotions. Sparks are ignited by plot twists and propelled by complex and impulsive characters. Celeste Ng’s second novel has been named to many “best book” lists, and understandably so. The novel opens with a burning house. The rest of the story explores who may have done it, and why. The storytelling is exquisite, an omniscient labyrinth of many wrong turns and reckless motivations.

Much of the dramatic irony is created from tensions between truth and appearances. New in town, Mia seems to be a quirky single mom, living from menial, minimum-wage jobs and thrift store gleanings. Actually, she’s an established artist with a top NYC gallery behind her.

The novel is filled with fabulous details about Mia’s photographic/artistic process. The book explores the theme of “the artist as a young woman” and how rebellion often fuels art. Art also figures prominently when a photo in a museum exhibit ignites a major plot twist.

Mia has raised her daughter Pearl on the go. The year Pearl turns 15, Mia promises that they’ll settle for awhile in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Shaker Heights was a planned community ** quote**. Founders believed that even social harmony could be planned, and in fact, overachievers of all racial and religious backgrounds seem to be welcomed; but not necessarily a penniless waitress from China. The normally quiet small town erupts in controversy when a wealthy white family tries to adopt an abandoned Chinese baby girl, and the mother steps forward to claim her child back.

Ng grew up in Shaker Heights and particular details of place are brilliant. The setting also resonates a universal suburban malaise, simmering with affluence and angst and secrets and yearning. By 1997, when the main story takes place, the town is fraying at the edges. High School and adolescence are rendered as dangerous places. (Yet the story takes place before the tragedies of Columbine or other school shootings.) Teens go to the wrong parties, drink too much, fall pregnant, or steal. Students also stand up against a mean teacher who slings a racial slur at a quiet student. Some try to help their friends through tough times. Others take more than they give.

Teens figure as main characters in the novel. New-to-town Pearl, 15, befriends the Richardson kids: Moody, Izzy, Lexie, and Trip. Each reflects suburban nuances of innocence, coming of age in a seemingly perfect community. Their challenges are mostly emotional, because the Richardson family, like most families in town, is affluent. Mr. Richardson is an established attorney and Mrs. Richardson is a small-town journalist with a destructive habit of meddling.

Izzy is a misunderstood rebel, who is blamed for all wrongs and finds creative outlets in music, poetry, and eventually as Mia’s art apprentice. Lexie is an over-achiever headed early-decision to Yale whose black boyfriend, Brian, is destined for Princeton. Moody is an easy-going, thoughtful person, in love with Pearl. Trip is a popular jock.

Trigger warnings for sensitive issues: adoption, abortion, race, absent fathers.

There are many ways to burn: “literally” as Lexie would say, and also emotionally. This book drops readers into the smoke of the American Dream. Any utopia still carries flaws. Characters are free take to the road and chase new dreams. Anger can be creative or destructive. Women have complicated choices about motherhood. Highly recommended for book groups and for fans of Donna Tartt’s THE GOLDFINCH, Lindsey Lee Johnson’s THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE ON EARTH, Ann Patchett’s COMMONWEALTH or Amy Tan’s JOY LUCK CLUB.

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"Celeste Ng livre avec ce second roman une analyse absolument bluffante d’une banlieue chic américaine, avec ses faux semblants et ses rancœurs, son ouverture de façade et son racisme dissimulé. Elle y aborde sans concession la place de la femme, la filiation, le droit à l’enfant, l’avortement, et plus généralement ce que sont les familles, dans leurs modes de vie et leurs choix uniques. Comme dans son précédent roman, l’auteure réussit à disséquer parfaitement ces problématiques de société, le tout dans un récit à la langue savoureuse et qui jamais ne m’a ennuyé. Un roman à lire, et une auteure à suivre !"

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What a fantastic book. I have to preface this by saying that Ng's first book, EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, was not only one of my favorite books of the year I read it, but one of the most important books of my life. Here she brings all of the same insight and compassion that I loved about the first book, but to a whole new story. The central theme of this book is family. What defines a family? What is the nature of the bond between a parent and child? Those are heady questions, but in this book they're handled so deftly, with such tenderness toward her characters. Loved this book, just loved it.

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A compelling story from Celeste Ng. The characters and situations are real and relatable. The story is beautifully crafted just as Everything I Never Told You was. Ms. Ng's writing style flows and weaves, beautiful use of language. I eagerly look forward to her books.

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I can definitely see what the fuss is about and I highly enjoyed it.

We follow three different families in Shaker Heights. One day a custody dispute erupts; a local couple has temporarily adopted a Chinese-American child and suddenly the mother reappears. The town is divided in two as some believe the mother should have custody and some believe the couple who has taken care of the child for the last couple of months should gain custody. One of the big problems is that the mother abandoned her child and she was not able to care for her because of financial issues.

I took my time reading the book as I new I wanted to soak up every little bit of information. It also made me think of my own prejudices and intercultural competence as there were conversations about how to teach the child about Chinese culture and such. Very good and interesting story about so much more than this custody battle.

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I tried and tried for so long to finish this book. I really wanted to like it, everyone else does. But unfortunately I had to eventually give up and DNF. I managed to push through 35% of The book and it didn't seems to move on. Nothing really interestibg happened and it just seemed to roll on place.. But i think someone who likes slowpaced books would really enjoy this.

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I loved Ng's first book, "Everything I Never Told You." It was really different than what I usually read, more realistic, simpler/cleaner (though still compelling) writing. I liked this book less, though it's still quite good - I wish I could give it 3.5 stars. Several of the characters in this book were less compelling to me, some of them seemed a bit generic (though there are certainly generic people out in the world so that's not to say they weren't realistic). It might be that Little Fires Everywhere is trying to do more - and so there are points where, as the NYT reviewer said, it strains under the weight of all of that - but in those moments it's still worthwhile to keep going. It improved as more characters were introduced, and as the plot expanded and the story progressed. I may re-read this one to see if I like it better on a second reading. And either way I will read whatever Ng comes up with next.

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A beautifully written mystery and so much more. I loved everything about this novel. The characters, the storytelling, the ending. Top notch!

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There's a lot to like in this novel of no good deed being done without expected compensation, but I found the central court case frustrating. A loving home against Chinese Barbies? I don't think I'd want to live in Shaker.

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Loved this book. The lives of two families tangle together briefly in Shaker Heights, the most perfect town in America. Several mother-daughter relationships are intertwined. There's Mia, the footloose artist and the love of her life, her teenage daughter Pearl and Mia's landlord Elena and her perfect older daughter Lexie and younger daughter Izzy. Mia's best friend has adopted an abandoned baby; the baby's mother is Mia's young abandoned coworker Bebe. And then there's Mia's estranged relationship with her own parents, her mentor, and the secret of Pearl's father.

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Little Fires Everywhere was an utterly immersive read that pulled me into the lives of seemingly disparate characters whose existences intersected in profound ways.

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Celeste Ng's "Little Fires Everywhere" surpasses her wildly popular "Everything I Never Told You". The book opens on a family home burning to the ground then unpacks all of the characters and actions that have led up to this shattered home and shattered family. It examines the connection of motherhood and adoption.
Many things drew me to this book; the author, the setting of Shaker Heights that I remember visiting in childhood, and the buzz of the new TV series. Ng's characters are realistically flawed people. I found myself identifying with the characters that dance to the beat of their own drum.

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I would rate this 3 1/2 stars. As usual, there is no doubt of Celeste Ng's writing ability. She can definitely write and tell a great story. However, in this book, the characters just didn't resonate for me the way they did in Everything I Never Told You. I just didn't quite like this one as much as the other one, but she's still one of my favorite current writers.

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Shaker Heights, Cleveland, is a community that has been planned out to a tee. It is a stable and safe environment for steady, successful families. Where nothing could go wrong. Or could it?

Many people describe «Little Fires Everywhere» as a slow paced family drama. Which I do not necessarily agree. Especially when it comes to the pace of the story. Considering that we see development of so many characters in the book, main and secondary, and the amount of events that ties them all together, there was never a moment when I thought about this book as slow or lacking tempo.

Creating a character driven novel, Celeste Ng found the perfect balance between unfolding the plot and characters’ personalities right before our eyes.

The Richardson family represented the spirit of Shaker Heights. At least that what Mrs. Richardson stood for: planned, programmed future, where everything is predictable and there are no margins for error. But life played its own tricks, when Mia Warren, a single mother, nomadic artist, with a 15 years old daughter Pearl, moved in the Shakers Heights and rented Mrs. Richardson’s flat.

Attracted by the novelty of lifestyle, Richardson’s kids slowly started to immerse themselves more and more in Mia’s and Pearl’s life. And that was where the clash of different approaches to life happened.

Izzy especially. Having a difficult relationship with her mother, Isabelle, was drawn to Mia from the very beginning, seeking the attention she wasn’t getting at home. Lexie also found solace in Mia’s presence. Pearl on the other hand was much more receptive of the Richardson family and their stability, something that she didn’t have enough during her 15 years of life.

Besides the delicate relationships between the Richardson and Warren families, there was also the adoption of Mirabelle McCullough and the battle for custody, that pushed Mia and Mrs. Richardson on the opposite sides.

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I’ve had this book for quite a while. I tried to read it back at the end of November and I just couldn’t get into it. The story was interesting but I’m not used to slow-paced books and I also don’t read many adult fictions, so I had to put it down at that moment. I tried again now in January, and this time, I don’t know if it was because I was in the mood or what happened, but I started getting absorbed in it from the very first pages. And I’m so happy I did!

Little Fires Everywhere is an extremely interesting, complex and slow-paced book that revolves around family dynamics – especially mom and daughter – and small-town politics.

The synopsis of the book is really accurate so I’m going to pass that part here and talk about some parts of it. The book starts with a literal fire going on at the Richardson’s house. We see them blaming Izzy, the youngest child and the only one missing in the picture. Right in that moment is when I started getting interested in the book. How can they blame her if they don’t know if it was her? She is rarely at home anyway, couldn’t she be just somewhere else and had nothing to do with it? I got completely engrossed in the characters and really wanted to understand them.

But from that scene, we move backward. Because to understand the fire, you have to understand the characters and what was going on in their minds. We meet Mia, an artist, and her daughter Pearl when they move to the town and start living in a rented house owned by the Richardson’s. Their families will mingle together and we will get to know Mr. and Mrs. Richardon and their four kids – Moody, Izzy, Lexie and Trip – and Mia and Pearl. We get not only to see their present but also their past. All the characters have some kind of role in the story and they are extremely well developed. You just get pushed in their lives… You get to know their personality, personal stories, the way they think, everything!

On the side of that, we also have two other characters that play an important role in the story – the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese baby, while her birth mom is fitting to get her too. It will make you take sides, make you think what is more important, what would you do in their position, and it will take a great tall in your emotions. The baby could have everything – live in a big house, full of toys and everything she would ever need or want, with adoptive parents that will undoubtedly love her. But is that enough? The baby already has a mother that is willing to take care of her. She might not have all the easy life the adoptive family has, but she has her love for her daughter, and the desire to take care of her. Things became tense, chaotic and it will be a big part of the book. It was done in an incredibly gripping way and it left me emotionally drained.

This book surprised me a lot and I think the characters that most struck me were Lizzy and Mia. They just hit me harder than the others. This book will turn your emotions upside down. It’s hard-hitting and emotional and as complex as real life. You will be inevitably pulled into their life, connected and disconnected with them several times. You will love them, hate them, take pity on them, and yet by the end, I still don’t know how to put my feelings in order… I don’t know what to think of anyone… If only life was in black and white, then it would be easy to take sides. But it isn’t and I feel that everyone has valid points of view and the author makes sure you get to choose your side. She doesn’t make anyone better than the other, or even give her opinion, she just presents you with “reality”, and that’s one of the things I most loved.

This book also touched themes like trust, family connections, mother-daughter relationships, friendship, young love, teen pregnancy, abortion, adoption, racism, and so on. It’s incredibly complete and complex, very well written, striking and emotional. And although I think you might have to be in the mood for this type of books, I think it’s 100% worth it and I would highly recommend it.
Rating: 4.5 stars

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I finished this book few days ago and I really loved it. There are quite a handful of characters but they're all distinct and very interesting. The author covers pretty much all of their backstories. It wasn't confusing (for me) at all. My favourite is definitely Izzy. Aside from her good taste of music (*ahem* Tori Amos), I admire her determination at a very young age. The writing is superb! Simple yet very effective and convincing. The narration/changes of POVs was perfectly done as well. The author beautifully handled some important topics in the story such as racism, abortion, and adoption. The ending felt a little convenient in my opinion but overall, this was a brilliant and very thought-provoking read.

I honestly cannot imagine myself living in Shaker Heights. I'm tempted to read Everything I Never Told You which has been on my shelf for quite a long time now.

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