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Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little fires

“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”

Little Fires Everywhere is an examination of life and family. Celeste Ng takes us to Shaker Heights, a planned community in Ohio, and delves into different life paths and morals. The novel raises questions about right and wrong, motherhood, culture, and race.

Things are done a certain way in Shaker Heights. Elena Richardson embodies the Shaker way of life. She has lived there most of her life, only departing for a few years to attend college. She carefully planned her life - education, husband, house, family, career - and she has stuck to that plan. She did everything “right” and aside from a strained relationship with her youngest child her life seems pretty perfect. But did she miss out on something by always following the rules?

Mia Warren could not be more different from Mrs Richardson. She has lived a nomadic life since becoming a single mother, moving herself and her daughter wherever her art takes her. Mia and her teenage daughter Pearl arrive in Shaker Heights, planning to finally stay put, and rent a house from Mrs Richardson. Pearl becomes friends with the Richardson children and their lives all weave together.

As the Warrens and the Richardsons get to know each other, some forming deep relationships and others deep suspicions, there is a custody battle stirring up everyone’s feelings in the town. A Chinese American baby is being adopted by close friends of Mrs Richardson, but the baby’s birth mother has found her and she wants her back. Who should raise baby May Ling/Mirabelle? There is no question that both parties love the child. It’s money vs. culture, two adoptive parents vs. a biological mother. Opinions are divided and feelings over the case lead Elena Richardson digging deep into Mia’s past.

I would have liked to have gotten to know some of the characters better, but overall Little Fires Everywhere is a great slice-of-life novel and an enjoyable read.

Posted by Lara

Catalogue link print copy: Little Fires Everywhere 
Catalogue link: e-book: Little Fires Everywhere

 

30 September 2021

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