Publisher: Penguin Press
Released: September 12th 2017
Received: Own (Book of the Month)
Warnings: Mention of fertility issues
Celeste Ng, the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You has a way of writing an emotionally intricate and slow building story. Fans of her past novels will not be disappointed with Little Fires Everywhere (in fact I may have liked this one more). When I first saw this book listed on the September options for Book of the Month, it was the cover that caught my attention right now. Its colors and suburban feel are not only eye-catching but a perfect example of what you’ll find inside.
Warnings first: A couple of the side characters introduced have or are currently going through fertility issues. Ng isn’t afraid to show us just how heartbreaking and difficult that problem can be, so those that are particularly sensitive to that may find this novel a little tough to read at times.
Little Fires Everywhere is the story of two families, both vastly different from one another. One family is the embodiment of Shaker Heights, the cute little perfectly planned suburb they live in. The other is a single mother and her daughter who had previously lived a more nomadic life. The interactions and connections these two families create spiral outward, reaching into and causing reactions in other families, much like the domino effect.
Much like Everything I Never Told You, this novel actually starts with the ending; a quick glimpse into the more traumatic part of the story (thankfully unlike last time, it does not start with a character death). From there it flips back to the past, giving us the gradual buildup of events.
Admittedly stories like Little Fires Everywhere is one you have to be in the mood for. I was fortunate in that this was the perfect book for me when I was reading it. Despite the heavy emotional elements involved, I found this novel almost relaxing (with a few exceptions). The amount of time spent getting to know each character involved (and there are quite a few of them) really creates the sensation that you yourself know these people. I found myself caring about the decisions they made, and at times I could almost picture the artwork Mia was creating.
Being that the novel focuses more on character development to drive the plot, you’ll find that some characters will quickly become your favorites, while other characters…not so much. I personally found myself loving Mia and Pearl (the single mother and daughter team) while finding Mrs. Richardson to be abrasive and at times cruel. While I think we were set up to feel certain emotions at times (for example I believe we were set up to feel like Mrs. Richardson was always being too harsh on Izzy), at other points I think that Celeste Ng wanted us to be able to choose our own path, and thus offered us both sides of a situation.
There are many moral and ethical debates that come to the surface during this novel. What makes a parent a parent? Is it biology? Is it the law? The way they treat their children? How should custody be decided, when the circumstances are anything but black and white? Does one mistake make a person a bad parent? Ng doesn’t provide any of the answers to these questions, we’re meant to think of them on and supply them ourselves. It was beautifully thought provoking in that sense.
I really enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere and look forward to what Celeste Ng comes out with next. She always seems to write such in-depth tales with a pensive quality to them. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for the next book to release!