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"Witty, wise and tender. It's a marvel." - Paula Hawkins, New York Times-bestselling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives "I read Little Fires Everywhere in a single, breathless sitting. With brilliance and beauty, Celeste Ng dissects a microcosm of American society just wh...
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is a superior piece of literary fiction. It is a story of a classic upper middle-class 20th century American family and the changes wrought when a single mother and her daughter move into their rental house. The Richardson’s lives are upended by the relationships that develop between each family member and Mia and Pearl Warren, the lodgers. Mia Warren is an itinerant artist, carrying her daughter, Pearl, around the country in search of Mia’s muse. Pearl accepts this arrangement without knowing anything different until she is exposed to the Richardson’s family and lifestyle. The novel presents a very messy, human, and poignant story.
The eponymous title of the novel, stated in the first chapter, is a powerful symbol of the spirits of the characters. At several points in the novel, fire is used as a metaphor for the catalytic changes in the arcs of the characters. For Mrs. Richardson, it is tamped down in exchange for the safety of suburbia. In Izzy, it is seen as a rebirth of the fires of Mrs. Richardson’s youth. The title, Little Fires Everywhere, implies that each person has a spark and that they are all around the antagonist, Mrs. Richardson (although the lines between good and bad are very blurry, just like real life).
Acceptance is a strong theme throughout. For Pearl, it’s about seeing a totally different way of life in the Richardson’s, and striving to fit in and find herself, apart from her mother. For Izzy, it’s about finding acceptance and even love from Mia, resulting in an ersatz exchange of mothers for Izzy and Pearl. We also see the acceptance of the daughters by the mothers. There is also a struggle for acceptance of life’s circumstances by several secondary characters that round out the idea, juxtaposing needing and resignation to acceptance.
There is a keen bit of foreshadowing in the first chapter that hangs over every event and relationship. It is well done and adds a lot to the reading. There are also several passages of flashbacks that strongly develop the characters into complex portraits of humans. The narrative structure is third person omniscient, which I found illuminating. There are also a host of other thematic elements that are quite beautiful. Ms. Ng tells the story straightforwardly without any proselytizing, but there are depths in between the lines.
Little Fires Everywhere is a strong statement about the human need for acceptance. It achieves this through the portrayal of the daughters' desire to change mothers and the mothers’ ability to accept or reject this desire.
I really enjoyed this book. It had an interesting plot and the story moved along at a quick pace. The author tried to tackle a lot in this book, so in some ways, I wish it was longer. I would have liked more character development and would have liked to see some aspects of the story that were glossed over, play out.