Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is not, as I had originally anticipated, a thriller or suspense novel. Instead, it is a story of motherhood and the thin line between right and wrong. It’s about how our actions as parents can unwittingly affect our children, especially as they move into young adulthood. In fact, I’d go so far as to say this could be considered a ‘coming of age’ novel, since there are so many aspects teenage angst in this book. The ‘mystery’ of who set the fire really isn’t a big part of the novel in my opinion. It just makes for a good opening. The ‘little fires everywhere’ (in my opinion) refers to the many, many mistakes that each of the fairly large cast of characters makes throughout the novel.
So, what is the plot?
Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl have been moving place to place, sometimes living in their car, to accomodate Mia’s career as an artist and her apparent inability to stay still. They move to Shaker Heights under the promise that this time they’d stay for the long-haul, and rent a house from posh Elena Richardson.
Elena is your classic high-achieving mother who expects her kids to be high-achievers too. She’s kind-hearted for the most part, even going so far as to offer Mia a part-time job as her housekeeper and having Pearl over for dinner on the regular. But Mia and Elena clash, and as their kids get more and more entangled, the secrets both have been trying to keep hidden come pouring out.
Having read Everything I Never Told You by the same author, I knew I loved Celeste Ng’s writing style but did not love her characters. They were just too unlikeable in that novel for my taste. Thank goodness I gave her another chance.
Once again, the writing was exquisite, but more exciting than that was the fact that I actually loved the characters this time! I really appreciate how Celest Ng is willing to make her characters real people. Every one of her characters was flawed, yet all had redeeming traits that made me ‘umm’ and ‘err’ over who I thought was in the right. It was quite a sad ending, but again, I appreciate that Celeste Ng’s books are very reflective of real life. I found Little Fires Everywhere extremely thought provoking and look forward to reading more of her work.