Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng

Summary: The brilliant new novel from the author of the New York Times bestseller, Everything I Never Told You.
Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When the Richardsons' friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia's.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)
My Review:  If you are an awards winner reader (or even an award-winning reader!), this book should definitely be on your radar. It won the Best Fiction for the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2017 and was one of the winners for Best Fictional Families in 2017 for the Kirkus Reviews best books. So it’s out there. Chances are you’ve seen it.

Where to start? Hmmm…this is a very complicated book. It’s not complicated to read, actually. The writing is very relatable and accessible. It even has a vibe that’s sometimes ironic­, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes friendly, sometimes menacing. The story itself is complicated and nuanced and has so many different layers to it it’s like many different books in one. For a shortish and simple book of fiction, it is really anything but. I can’t believe all of the things that Ng crammed into the story and the pages. It didn’t seem to be too much, though, because Ng is a masterful storyteller who was able to cram in all the complexities and secrets of a whole town of people into a novel that is really pretty impressive.

I’ve been asking myself for days now if I enjoyed this book. Liked? Yes. Appreciated? Certainly. Enjoyed? I don’t know. And here’s why—this book is the most aptly named book I’ve encountered in a long time. On the surface “little fires everywhere”  could just be talking about the little fires that were set on each of the beds in the home that is burned. At the next level, “little fires everywhere” could mean the proverbial stirring of the pot that is going on by different characters in the book, whether the pot stirring is intended or not. But mostly, “little fires everywhere” just means that Ng takes all things that are normally socially accepted or social norms and drops them on their head and then lights the fire on each little issue and walks away, leaving the reader with their feelings and thoughts hanging out and having to deal with things on their own. See what I mean? I liked it. I appreciated it. Enjoyed? I don’t know. It’s not like I disagreed with the author, either, on all of the issues she’s discussing. There were many of the issues where I could see both sides and understand where each was coming from. This book is obviously emotionally charged in a lot of ways and Ng boldly goes in with a take-no-prisoners attitude and just stomps on everything with nary a care. It was kind of awesome. Uncomfortable, too. I’m not sure if I would want to discuss this in a book club. Or maybe I would? I don’t know. It’s so intense and so complicated that the discussion would either be about nothing really, just the story on the surface, or All The Things and maybe some people would leave with their feathers a little ruffled at the least.

This is not a book that you should take to the beach for some relaxing and care free reading. Don’t expect to be loving the nurturing character of each person. Do be prepared to be challenged both intellectually and emotionally, and be prepared to be thinking about this book way longer than the normal fiction fare. Little fires? You betcha. More like an inferno. Read it and be prepared to be impressed, entertained, heartbroken, and challenged.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There are many sensitive issues in this book including sex and teen pregnancy, and there is also language. 

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