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Little Fires Everywhere

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Having read Celeste Ng's previous novel, Everything I Never Told you, I've always held her writing in high regard and Little Fires Everywhere is if not, better than Everything I Never Told You. The characters were very well-fleshed out and I fell in love with her prose and writing style. It is a story filled with so many themes and is a story which I will cherish.

Do read this book. It'll change your worldview.

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Little Fires Everywhere is one of the most riveting books that I have read this year. This is the second novel by Ng and it is as equally good, if not better, than her first novel. It is a captivating novel about family, class, race, community in America today that explores the sensitive topics of abortion, surrogacy, multi-cultural adoption and the views towards immigrants. It is also a story about lies, betrayal, misunderstanding, trust and longing/belonging. At its very heart, it is an evocative look at motherhood and what makes a mother (good or bad) or even who has the right to claim to be called mother.

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There are books that pack a punch and unless you're emotionally prepared for it, you find yourself at the end of the book unmoved if not slightly disconcerted that it was not all that. This book calls for much more than that, it also calls for your attention to detail because the author portrays miniature intricate details of the characters. If you look at the whole picture and fail to dissect the little aspects of it, then you'd probably miss out on the little spark that burns brightly from the first page.
I really wanted to read this book because every #bookstagram blogger kept posting their reviews and with time the green colored cover of the book had me thinking of well manicured lawns that I had to walk on. I have had this kind of urge for two books; The Corrections and The Help, and I loved both.
The first chapter begins with the aftermath of the fire that Lizzy, the youngest Richardson and rebel of the family, is believed to have caused. The story then takes a different turn sharing insights into what led to the fire and in turn we are treated to a community, families and what feels like "saving face," in Shaker Heights. Whereas, Bill and Elena come off as the perfect couple, successful and rich, there are various intricate aspects of their personalities that are brought to light by their engagement with Mia(as their help) and her daughter Pearl.
It soon becomes clear to Mia that Elena, Mrs. Richardson, has created a perfect world around herself and in doing so, what seemed like extending a hand to her in the form of employing her to work in their house, was one way to contain her bubble. It is obvious from the beginning that though Elena is a stickler for rules, Mia is not and this creates an opportunity for Lizzy to express herself, question everything.
When two worlds collide, there's bound to be some strain and this book has a lot of it, with secrets and bonds between the characters enhanced and sometimes shaken based on misunderstandings.
It would seem like a good title under literary fiction and women's fiction, but then there's no single genre that it'd fit and when a book goes beyond a boundary, it makes for an interesting read. It is definitely not Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Paranormal Romance but it sure did feel like an abstract painting filled with details that only a keen eye could discern.
I would have waited till next year or even December to read this book had I not gotten it courtesy of Netgalley, and I do find myself wondering how dramatic it would have been, had Linda lost the custody case in the first place, where would that have left Elena's effort for calling in favors?

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4 stars!

“The earth is all scorched and black and everything green is gone. But after the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that too, you know. They start over. They find a way.”

Little Fires Everywhere is my first book by Celeste Ng and I didn't even think I'd get approved by NetGalley since the book was already published when I requested but here we are. Fun fact: I requested two editions of this book, the US and UK one because the US one was already published and I never thought I'd get either but somehow, I did. This is a slow burn book, it demands time to read it and you can't do so in one sitting, I think it took me almost two weeks to finish it but not in a bad way, more like, I needed to take my time with this one and read it in small pieces. Ng's writing from the first pages hooks you in and in just the first chapters, this world comes to life and these people become like a real life scene you can't look away from.

The book takes place in Shaker Heights, which I didn't know was a real place and pretty much everything that happens in the book - as far as the inner city politics go - is true, which was amazing to read about and a lot of things made me want to actually google stuff and read up on it, so fascinating. Little Fires Everywhere starts with two families, polar opposites, that have one thing in common, their teenage kids are friends. Mia and Pearl are the newcomers that move to Shaker Heights and rent a house from the Richardsons. The story takes its sweet time, told from a third POV, it travels from character to character whether it's the main two families or the students and teachers, tells bits and pieces of their past, present and sometimes future, it creates the perfect narration and it brings this odd city to life with the details and the amazing writing.

Mia and Pearl is a duo that has traveled all around the country, as Mia uses each place as inspiration for her art and they live paycheck to paycheck. Half way into the book and after the mother/daughter pair have settled in and they are now making friends and living a normal life with a steady home, an event shakes things up even more when another family close to the Richardsons adopts a Chinese baby. By that time the book has already introduced the main characters and as a reader I was in the process of figuring them out when, half way in, the adoption happens.

Elena Richardson and Mia are on opposite sides of the custody battle and that gives Elena the excuse to search Mia's unknown past. The book asks really hard questions about parenthood and what really makes a parent, is it biology or the ability to take care of a child better than the biological mother? So perfectly titled, Mia and Pearl's arrival sets little fires in this quiet city set a few decades ago - I didn't appreciate the Lewinsky references, can we let that woman be already?! - that makes this story all the more appealing with the lack of technology that would have changed it a lot.

Despite the fact that it took me time to read it, it wasn't because it was boring or I wasn't interesting. The story is intense and just a few chapters can cover more narration and storyline than I'm used to reading but it made me want to keep coming back to it after I'd put the book down. If you're in the mood for a slow read with lots of city politics and different characters then this is the book for you, personally I will be adding more books by the author on my TBR list.

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Believe the hype; Ng's sophomore novel is a truly incredible book.

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I love a character driven story and this fit the bill perfectly. Such great family dynamics. I really enjoyed the author's writing style. Really cool that it is set in Shaker Heights and having local places and locations talked about throughout the story.

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This was an excellent read, and I have already been recommending it at my library. Ms. Ng's characters are so multifaceted, they feel like real people I could meet in my life. The plot of this book is quiet and it does not move quickly, but the book never felt slow. The writing is gorgeous. I loved it.

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<i>Little Fires Everywhere</i> was a very engaging read. I always wanted to know what came next to each of the characters.

In this sort of Stepford-wifey neighbourhood, our characters try hard to live up to the standards they truly believe in, and our Elena Richardson in particular makes sure she helps the less fortunate and raises her children to do so. Issues of race, sexuality, teen discoveries and much more are addressed through a miscellany of characters. There are a handful of main ones and I enjoyed getting to know each of them. Indeed, I was quite a fan of the writing and development of characters.

The writing is quite unique. We are presented with different perspectives and what would have happened had a character known something. Situations that are approached earlier will be revisited under a different point of view. And this allows the reader to truly get in the shoes of each of the characters and actually commiserate even with the less deserving ones. The fact is everyone has their motives to act how they do and each has their own way of thinking and belief of what is right. The question is what are they willing to do to defend that.

This was very enjoyable and I highly recommend it.

<i>Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher. Edelweiss and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.</i>

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This was even better than her last book, which I loved. The characters are so interesting and well-written. The story is addicting and flows so lovely. Wonderful writing, great book! I can't wait for another by this author. My only complaint is that it was over too soon.

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The character development was just too much for my taste. I like Moody and Pearl, but the rest of the characters can take a hike. Mia seemed trapped in a teenage body- mentally and physically. I can appreciate the style Ng uses, and will recommend to people who prefer this style.

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I was already a fan of Celeste Ng after reading Everything I Never Told You, and this book solidified her status as a favorite author. She writes such well-honed, honestly-drawn characters. Nearly every character in both of her books reminds me clearly of someone I have known in real life. Her plots and settings are captivating as well, but it's the characterization that really works for me. I will definitely recommend this book to others and purchase it for my library, and I anticipate that it will be very popular.

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This novel opens on Mrs. Richardson watching her house burn to the ground with the knowledge that the fire was set by her youngest daughter Izzy. From there, Ng takes us back in the year leading up to the incident, sketching out the perfect-on-the-surface lives of the Richardson's and their tenant - a mysterious nomadic artist, Mia and her daughter. Ng leaves the sparks for any number of discussions on the differences between good and bad. Elena Richardson is so certain of the difference, that she is quick to rout out Mia's past and dig into the personal life of someone embroiled in a lawsuit with her oldest friend that she fails to recognize how her own family is blurring the lines until it all goes up in smoke.

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Not since Sinclair Lewis has there been such an erudite indictment of the Midwestern "values" - I adored every single page of this nonconformist teenage Bildungsroman! I tried to make it last - because every page was a delight, but I tore through it!

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Loved this book. A character study of the Richardson family and their tenants, Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl. Written from the POV of each character, it delves into class issues, growing up in an upper class neighbor vs Pearl and her mom who are renters of the Richardsons. Tackles the complicated relationships within families. Unfortunately, I am only giving this 4 stars because I was not a fan of the ending.

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This is my second time this year reading a book by Celeste Ng and I truly enjoyed the experience both times.
"Litte Fires Everywhere" deals with many subjects. Like "Everything I Never Told You" it focus on family ties, motherhood and you find yourself deeply invested in the Richardsons and the Warrens story.
One aspect I specially liked about this book the subplot of transracial adoption and the way racism was described.
If you've read and enjoyed Celest Ng previous book or you just enjoy reading about families, I highly recommend this book.

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Little Fires Everywhere introduces us to the Richardson family, a perfectly organized and happy family –at least on the outside- living in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland where everything is planned and everyone knows their place. Elena Richardson, perfect wife and mother, has lived all her life in Shaker Heights and it suits her just fine, she has a carefully planned life structure and all her 4 children plus her husband are seemingly happy to comply.

Mia Warren, artist and single mother, enters the Richardson’s life carrying a life of secrets and little else. She and her teenaged daughter, Pearl, had spent their life on the road, moving from one place to another whenever Mia felt her inspiration waning, but now she promised her daughter is time to stay. They are living in the Richardson’s rental house.

When Pearl meets the youngest Richardson boy they develop a strong friendship that allows Pearl to experience a whole new life in the Richardson’s house, surrounded by everything a teenager may need, she starts to prefer expend all her free time with them and the allure of her artistic mom starts to diminish. For Pearl, living in motels and never staying long enough in a place to call it home, the Richardson’s have it all.

The opposite happens with the youngest Richardson girl, Izzy, she finds in Mia Warren a kindred spirit that could understand her and give her the love that she feels has been denied to her in her own family.

Everyone is adjusting to the new tenants situation when Mrs. Richardson closest friend, after years of trying to conceive and multiple abortions, decides to adopt a Chinese-American baby who has been abandoned in a fire station. But the baby’s mother is back and a custody battle ensues, dividing Shaker Heights opinions, with Elena and Mia in different sides the consequences will be life changing.

Little Fires Everywhere touch topics such as family secrets, the blindness of a privileged life, and, above all, the fierceness of motherhood. It also deals with art, the passion for photography, in detail. I’m honestly not into photography, asides from the appreciation of beauty (from my point of view), but Ng does a great job at keep it interesting enough.

I liked the depth that Ng gives to the characters, particularly the mothers in the story. The only character arc I didn’t agree with was Izzy’s, she was out of control and in need of professional help. Of course the relationship with her mother was dysfunctional (there’s an explanation for their relationship been like that that got me all teared-eye)–they both needed help if I’m been thorough- but what she did was unjustifiable.

LFE is an easy read in the way it is written, but it’ll give you a lot to think about (and to discuss!).

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Wow can this author write a great story! I’m one of the few who haven’t yet read her first book although it’s on my TBR list but I had heard such wonderful things about this author and the premise of the book sounded interesting.

The idea of an affluent suburb with picture perfect families hiding dysfunctional characters is not a new idea, (in fact I live in one, however much smaller than Shaker Heights) Ms. Ng imagines such an incredible story, including a plot within the main plot, filled with people you will not soon forget that it doesn’t matter much how we are introduced to them.

I loved that the author dropped little nuggets of hints throughout the book that foretell the ending and the great title. “Even then Mia had a sense of what she was starting; a hot smell pricked her nostrils, like the first wisp of smoke from a far-off blaze . . . .” Mrs. Richardson musing about passion “she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control. It scaled walls and jumped over trenches. Sparks leapt like fleas and spread as rapidly; a breeze could carry embers for miles. Better to control that spark and pass it carefully from one generation to the next, like an Olympic torch. Or perhaps to tend it carefully like an eternal flame . . . .” I have ear marked so many of these passages but I’ll let you discover them yourself.

Mrs. Richardson (Elena) with her loving husband, beautiful house, steady job and a brood of healthy kids is hiding a secret about how she feels about her youngest. Perhaps she is too much like herself but uncontrolled and neglected? Why is Izzy picked on so frequently and she is the one whom Mrs. Richardson is forever impatient with.

But to 15 year old Pearl Warren the Richardson’s have everything that she wants. She quickly develops a close relationship with one of the teenage girls and spends a lot of time at the Richardson’s house, enjoying the constant attention from Elena, the freedom to watch TV all afternoon and there always is a place for her at the table. Pearl and her mother, Mia, have moved around her entire life. Mia is an artist of some repute but gets her inspiration from different places and when she is done with a “project” she packs them up and they move on to the next place. They are now renting the lower level of a rental home owned by the Richardsons.

There is Bebe whom Mia works with and her newborn baby whom she abandons but then decides that she wants her baby back, just as another family, close friends of Elena, are about to finalize the adoption of baby May-Ling. This sub-plot has more that links it to the main story but I won’t reveal that portion of the plot, that would be a spoiler for sure!

This book really sells itself, the simple graphic cover, the “in your face” beginning, I couldn’t put this book down, really.

These characters are so well developed I found myself wanting to try to help them figure things out, go in the right direction, understand each other, but the reader is along for the ride as the story unravels.

Beautifully crafted, descriptive! The art that Mia crafts is a combination of photographs, found objects and more. She leaves a special gift for each one in the Richardson family, artwork particular to each of them. To Mrs. Richardson “a paper cutout of a birdcage, shattered, as if something very powerful inside had burst free . . . . each splintered bar bent gracefully outward, like the petal of a chrysanthemum, and in the center of the empty cage lay one small, golden feather . . .”

I will leave you with that beautiful piece of writing. I highly recommend this to everyone and cannot wait for Celeste Ng’s next book!

(will also post to amazon upon publication)

Posted to amazon on September 12, 2017

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The authors ability to pull the reader into the story is incredible. It is masterfully done and the reader gets a feeling that they are peering into someone else's strange reality. This was an outstanding read that was just as powerful as Ng's first book. A must read for her fans!

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Little Fires Everywhere is one of the most riveting and brightly burning books that I have read this year. It is a captivating portrayal of family, community, and class in America that explores the sensitive and complex topics of abortion, surrogacy, multi-cultural adoption, views towards immigrants, and race. It is also a story of betrayal, lies, misunderstanding, trust, desires, and longing. At its very heart, it is a brilliant and evocative look at motherhood and what not only makes a “good” and “bad” mother but who even has the right to claim to be called mother—and lose that right. From the first page, I was fully immersed in the story, and that did not let up until the last page; there were two nights I stayed up reading it until way past 3 am just because I could not put it down!

Celeste Ng is an unexcelled expert at brilliantly drawn plots and creating characters who are wonderfully fascinating, whether they are flawed or not.  I'm a reader who loves stunning characterizations, the connections an author weaves from one character to another, and the way each character adds to the storyline. Ng is a master at this! She is not afraid to have her characters grapple with hard issues that expose their vulnerability. Nor is she afraid of exposing their flaws: selfishness, jealousy, criticalness, or their very human feelings of fear, cravings to belong, desires, and the poignancy of a mother's unrelenting love for her child that carries this book from start to finish. One thing I thought Ng used to marvelous and bold effect, and which made the connections with her characters even more intimate, was the omniscient style POV she uses to narrate the story. Instead of detracting from the characters (as it often can when used negligibly), it adds dramatic irony, is unique, and gives a highly distinctive voice throughout this novel.

In the novel, we are introduced to many characters—major and minor and all make an impact in one way or another. But it is the wealthy Richardson family along with unconventional, gypsy-like, artist Mia Warren and her fifteen-year-old daughter Pearl that are the primary players in this novel. It is in these characters interactions and the full immersion into the other’s lives that causes quietly smoldering embers to begin unfurling into a slow, steady burn until an inferno rages inside both the characters and the storyline.

Even the title of the book could not be more apt since when we meet the Richardson family, all but Izzy that is, their house is aflame, and the Shaker Heights gossip mill is running rampant about who set the blazing house fire! It's the hottest gossip of the summer!

The Richardson family is affluent and successful, much like the suburban community of Shaker Heights where they live, which is a town built on rules, planning, security, stability, and conformity. They seem to be the perfect (almost) family living in perfect suburbia: Bill, a contented lawyer; Elena, a reporter and the oh, so rule abiding pillar of the community; Lexie, the spoiled princess; Trip, the stereotypical jock; Moody, smart and sensitive; and Izzy, misunderstood and unaccepted. Yet, there are hidden depths to them all, dormant sparks inside them just waiting to be lit. All it will take is one match, one spark.

That spark is Mia and Pearl who move to town and rent the Richardson's rental house. Mia is a brilliant artist, a photographer; she is a non-conformist, a free spirit, a wanderer like a bird taking flight whenever she fancies, never staying in one place very long. She is the antithesis of Mrs. Richardson. Yet, Pearl, shy, genius, pretty, craves a home, a place to stay longer than a few months. A place to put down her roots, so Mia has promised Shaker Heights will be that place. As Pearl searches for the normalcy, she has never had, she begins to spend all her time with Moody, Lexie, and Trip where she finds friendship—and young love.

Pearl is also fascinated and drawn to Mrs. Richardson, a woman so at odds with her own mother. In the same way, Izzy begins spending all her time with Mia since she is not only so different from Mrs. Richardson, but Mia is the only one to understand her and accept her differences. Mia even becomes the confidante and secret keeper to Lexie, acting in the role of mother when Lexie cannot confide in her own. In these moments, we realize that Ng is telling the reader that sometimes family is not only the one we are born in but the one we choose.

It was in these parent-child interactions that become more pronounced during the multi-cultural baby adoption case (which I will not go in any details about other than what is in the synopsis) that shakes Shaker Heights to its very core—and makes enemies of Elena and Mia who are at odds about the case that Ng probes deeply into what it means to be a mother. She intensely questions the very quintessence of motherhood, including who decides, or has the right to decide, about raising a child and when. Being a mother, this was emotional, intense, and sobering in so many ways. This quote not only sums up all the emotions of motherhood magnificently but the core of the novel:

 “To a parent, your child wasn’t just a person: your child was a place, a kind of Narnia, a vast eternal place where the present you were living and the past you remembered and the future you longed for all existed at once.” 

 The novel is full of so much beauty, intelligence, and humanity that I had to reread certain parts to absorb Ng’s remarkable ability to see into the human psyche. Her writing is clever and insightful, and the way she connects every trail of the storylines until they ignite into little fires all over is stunning prose that is more than beautiful. It is vivid and imaginative almost like Mia’s photographs. Although the novel ultimately in ends in flames, both literal and metaphorical, and several of the character’s actions have cataclysmic effects, the novel’s exquisiteness consumed me.

I highly recommend Little Fires Everywhere, and Ng has proven herself to me (although I had no doubts at all) to be an extraordinary, highly intelligent author with her follow up to Everything I Never Told You. I highly anticipate her next book!

**Thank you, NetGalley, Penguin Press, and Celeste Ng for an ARC in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.**

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