“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”
It has been a minute since I started this book. I checked it out from my library months ago and it expired before I got to finish it. I had to go back on a wait list to get it and after I got it back it took me some time to get back into it. 2 days before it was going to expire again, I decided to just go for it (also helped that I listened to a podcast where someone was completely raving about the book) and I finally got through with it.
Little Fires Everywhere is a novel by Asian-American author, Celeste Ng. It’s about two families – The wealthy Richardson family that consists of 4 kids – Tripp, Lexie, Moody and Izzy and the mother-daughter duo of Mia and Pearl. Mia and Pearl have been on the move for so long that Pearl is used to it. But she is 15 now and Mia promises that their stop in Shaker Heights, OH (the real hometown of the author) will be more permanent and it is probably time to settle down.
Mia is renting a flat from Mrs. Richardson and Pearl and Moody become best friends and is always at the Richardson’s house. Mia is an artist but does odd jobs to stay afloat and being a cleaner and cook for the Richardson’s become two of her jobs. While Pearl is always at the Richardson’s house, the youngest Richardson, Izzie is always with Mia. She feels more at home with Mia than with her family especially her mom Elena, who does not understand her and is not always kind to her.
We get to know the family and then we are hit with the main story line in which the Richardsons family friend try to adopt an Asian-American baby and get into a custody battle that divides the families and the whole town. This division leads Elena to delve into Mia’s past and the action trickles down into a myriad of events that culminate into little fires everywhere (you see what I did there?)
You guyssss, my book slump might be over! I didn’t know what to expect (as always, I did not know what the book was about). I liked Ng’s other novel “Everything I Never Told You” enough but it wasn’t great or anything so my expectations weren’t high.
This book was so beautifully written, I felt like I could feel all the love and care Ng put into each and every character. You completely felt that you knew what each character was about and who they were. I found Elena very selfish and unlikable and I guess that was her role to play as the villain but even then, she still felt very real. She was the embodiment of certain type of people in America who live and die by “morals”
Many topics were addressed that made it so real:
Racism – “Everyone sees race, Lex,” said Moody. “The only difference is who pretends not to.”
Nature vs. Nurture – “It came, over and over, down to this: What made someone a mother? Was it biology alone, or was it love?”
Life philosophies – “One had followed the rules, and one had not. But the problem with rules… was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time they were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure what side of the line you stood on.”
Parenthood – “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 at the same time. You could see it every time you looked at her: layered in her face was the baby she’d been and the child she’d become and the adult she would grow up to be, and you saw them all simultaneously, like a 3-D image. It made your head spin. It was a place you could take refuge, if you knew how to get in. And each time you left it, each time your child passed out of your sight, you feared you might never be able to return to that place again.”
I could go on forever. But besides being humane, this was an intelligent book. While I was invested in the characters, it also made me think, made me examine where I stood on certain topics and as I type this, I still don’t know where I lie on the custody battle. The first chapter seems pretty unremarkable but by the last two chapters, it made more sense and I returned to read it before going back to finish the book.
The only thing I’d say I didn’t like was, the end. I’ve said before how endings must be really difficult to write because very rarely do I find endings I am satisfied with. I still don’t know how a certain event in the book happened and things were left vague. I was so tense reading the book just wondering how this will unfold that when I didn’t get a nice little bow, I was a little let down.
Just in case you couldn’t tell by everything I have said above, I completely enjoyed this book and totally recommend it.
P.S If you’d like to purchase the book it is $2.99 here
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