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Little Fires Everywhere

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Goodreads Choice Award
Winner for Best Fiction (2017)
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 principle 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 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 old family friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town - and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at an unexpected and devastating cost . . .

338 pages, Hardcover

First published September 12, 2017

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About the author

Celeste Ng

7 books87k followers
Celeste Ng is the author of three novels, Everything I Never Told You, Little Fires Everywhere, and Our Missing Hearts.

Her first novel, Everything I Never Told You (2014), was a New York Times bestseller, a
New York Times Notable Book of 2014, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and named a best book of the year by over a dozen publications. Everything I Never Told You was also the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the ALA’s Alex Award. It has been translated into over thirty languages and is being adapted for the screen.

Her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere (2017) was a #1 New York Times bestseller, a #1 Indie Next bestseller, and Amazon's Best Fiction Book of 2017. It was named a best book of the year by over 25 publications, the winner of the Ohioana Award and the Goodreads Readers Choice Award 2017 in Fiction, and spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list.
Little Fires Everywhere has been published abroad in more than 30 languages and has been adapted as a limited series on Hulu, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.

Her third novel, Our Missing Hearts, will be published on October 4, 2022.

Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio. She graduated from Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan). Her fiction and essays have appeared in the
New York Times, The Guardian, and many other publications, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among other honors.

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Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,111 reviews1,396 followers
July 26, 2020
The order of the small town on the riverbank
Forever at war with the order of the dark and starlit soul

—Adrienne Rich, “8/1/68”

The nonconformist has always been at war with the suburbs—Adrienne Rich was writing about it 50 years ago, and she surely was not the first. I can understand this dichotomy; I myself have certainly experienced suburbs where a high level of conformity seemed to be expected, resulting in a weird high-school atmosphere among grown adults. Still, you really don’t have to dig very deep to realize that things aren’t as black-and-white as they seem. There are all different kinds of people living everywhere, with varying degrees of happiness and fulfillment. All of which is to say, if you’re going to write on this theme now, you should probably have something new to add to the conversation, or at least a unique way of expressing it.

Little Fires Everywhere takes place in the planned community of Shaker Heights, where an artist named Mia and her teenage daughter Pearl move into a rental home after having lived a peripatetic existence since Pearl’s birth. The battle lines are immediately drawn: the nonconformist, creative Mia versus the staid middle-aged matrons of Shaker Heights. Mind you, these battle lines aren’t initially drawn by the characters, but by the author, who makes it clear that Mia is the moral center of the book. Characters who like Mia are the good characters; characters who don’t like Mia are the bad characters; and characters who are suspicious of Mia at first and then come around to liking her have experienced a redemptive arc. This would be less problematic if Mia hadn’t . I was honestly horrified by Mia’s actions and I wasn’t brought around by the fact that she was an artist, or by the fact that she was allegedly the best mother since the Virgin Mary or whatever. But as far as this book is concerned, Mia is the real deal, an infinitely better person than all those Shaker Heights parents, who, let’s face it, are all kind of repressed. Being repressed is the real sin of suburbanites, you see. Nothing could possibly be worse, I guess. Oh, there’s also a subplot regarding a custody battle between a set of adoptive white Shaker Heights parents and the baby’s biological mother, a young Chinese immigrant, which could have been really interesting, but it’s given short shrift and is clearly meant only to underscore how amazing Mia is and how horrible the Shaker Heights mothers are in comparison.

Now look, I don’t expect any character to be perfect, and I did not expect that from the character of Mia. Obviously, someone in the novel needed to do something scandalous, or you’d have no book at all. What I don’t like is being told who to root for. I don’t like it when authors stack the deck. Just present every character in the fullness of their humanity and let me decide who I’m rooting for. If you’ve done your job properly, I’ll root for who you want me to root for anyway. But if you idealize one extremely flawed character at the expense of everyone else, you’re going to lose me. You’re going to make me side with a bunch of repressed Shaker Heights matrons I have nothing in common with, because those poor matrons never even had a chance at the end of your pen.

Okay, so the nonconformist versus the suburbs theme wasn’t handled in a particularly original or illuminating way here. It’s possible the book could have been redeemed by good writing, except Little Fires Everywhere doesn’t really have that either. The constantly shifting viewpoints didn’t work for me at all—and when I say constantly shifting, I don’t mean chapter by chapter. I mean paragraph by paragraph, and sometimes sentence by sentence. This results in some extreme awkwardness, as when every sentence in a paragraph is from the point of view of the character of Izzy, except for one sentence in the middle that relays a piece of information that Izzy doesn’t know. I guess an omniscient narrator is responsible for that particular sentence? In a few instances the omniscient narrator is even more obtrusive, reminding us who does and doesn’t know certain things that have just occurred from one character’s viewpoint. But beyond the awkwardness, so many characters are given a moment in the spotlight that I never really felt like I got to know most of them, and what we do know is revealed mainly through soliloquies and flashbacks, some of which are so long and involved that they derail the main story and quash any possible shot at narrative momentum. And let’s not forget the eye-rollingly dramatic and implausible plot twists that make it seem as if the author has watched too much Grey’s Anatomy. There’s the college student who can’t afford the year’s tuition, and because she’s . There’s the character who is suspected of And then there’s the beloved mentor who is of course There’s just so much crammed into this book, but it all adds up to so little.

This is all very awkward, because a representative of the publisher offered me this ARC a few weeks ago and I enthusiastically accepted. I hadn’t read Celeste Ng’s previous novel, but I was under the impression that she was a good writer and I thought I would really enjoy this one. But I didn’t, and I have to be honest about it, because if I’m not honest about the books I dislike, I can’t expect anyone to trust my word on any book I review. Little Fires Everywhere seemed endless, it was pedestrian and tedious, and it just regurgitated stereotypes about the suburbs we’ve all heard countless times before. I initially thought I would give it 2 stars because, even though I didn’t like it, it seemed to me that the author had done what she’d set out to do, and I wanted to acknowledge that. But by the time I reached the end of the book, I’d changed my mind. It now seems to me that the author truly believes she’s written something deeply meaningful, and I know this sounds harsh, but I don’t agree. I learned nothing from this book and I didn’t enjoy the experience. There’s just no other way to say it.
Profile Image for Deanna .
664 reviews12.4k followers
September 23, 2018
My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpress.com/

“Little Fires Everywhere” is my first read by Celeste Ng, but I’m pretty sure that it won’t be my last. I could easily have read this book in just one or two sittings but life got in the way (in this case life being a glass of 7up, a knee jerk and “Nooo! Save the books!”). But once the book was dry, I picked it up again and didn’t stop until I finished the last page.

Everything in Shaker Heights is planned and there are rules that residents must follow. Houses can only be painted certain colors (to ensure aesthetic harmony), garbage is never put out in front of the house, lawns must always be cut promptly, etc.

The city motto says it all:

“Most communities just happen; the best are planned”

When Mia Warren and her fifteen year old daughter, Pearl rent a home from the Richardsons, a prominent Shaker Heights family – their lives will become intertwined in ways they never could have imagined.

Mrs. Richardson liked to rent to people she felt were deserving of her help, people who may have had some tough turns in life. She felt it was her way of giving back. When she first meets Mia Warren and her daughter she thinks they are the perfect tenants.

One of the Richardson boys, Moody is curious about the new tenants and heads over to the rental property. Moody and Pearl hit it off immediately. Moody who has never wanted for anything, is surprised at how this mother and daughter make their way. Mia can stretch a dollar (and leftover food) farther than anyone he’s ever seen. It’s not long before Moody brings Pearl home to meet everyone. Soon Pearl is spending much of her time at the Richardson home. At first, everything is fantastic. Mrs. Richardson even hires Mia to do some housekeeping and cooking at the Richardson home. But it won’t be long before the many differences between Mia and Mrs. Richardson cause a divide that will affect the two families in unimaginable ways.

In some ways, I felt bad for Pearl as the nomadic life that her mother had them living would be hard on anyone, especially a teenage girl. However, Pearl also seemed to benefit from the way they lived. At first, Mia came across as incredibly selfish but it wasn’t long before I loved her. Her caring ways were evident and how she responded to the different crises that came up endeared her to me. I may not have agreed with all of her choices but I could certainly see how she would have made them.

Right off the bat I was irked by Mrs. Richardson (the fact that she was rarely referred to by her first name was fitting). Mrs. Richardson was the type who wanted to be seen as someone who cared and helped others. However, you could tell right away that she kept track of all the good things she had done. And you never knew when Mrs. Richardson would want a repayment of her “kindness”. When she offers to buy one of Mia’s photographs and Mia doesn’t fall at her feet with gratitude...

“That’s very generous of you.” Mia’s eyes slid toward the window briefly and Mrs. Richardson felt a twinge of irritation at this lukewarm response to her philanthropy.

Izzy was a firecracker and I adored her impulsiveness and strong feelings about right and wrong. Even at ten years old, setting shelter cats free “They’re like prisoners on death row” , her refusal to conform was thrilling. Mrs. Pissers and the toothpick incident had me giggling. And I hurried to Google to search “This Be The Verse” by Philip Larkin.

There was a lot going on in “Little Fires Everywhere” but I found it easy to keep up. I will say that it had a bit of a slow start but I feel the author was just setting the stage for all that was to come. And once I hit the halfway mark, I was so completely invested into all of their lives and HAD to know what was going to happen next.

The additional story-line of little Mirabelle McCullough/May Ling Chow’s adoption was incredibly thought provoking and had me asking myself some hard questions. I honestly didn’t know which side I was on half the time. My head was spinning.

“What made someone a mother? Was it biology alone, or was it love?”

I thought that the development of the characters was fantastic. With so many characters and only so many pages, it takes skill to bring them all to life. And in my opinion; Celeste Ng did a phenomenal job. And with the many 90’s references such as Sir-Mix-a-lot, Smashing Pumpkins, Jerry Springer, and Monica Lewinsky - I was taken back to my own adolescence.

This was an intriguing and compelling domestic drama. A story about motherhood, adolescence, race, rules, right and wrong, and so much more. Great characters and an interesting plot made “Little Fires Everywhere” a fast and fantastic read.

Many thanks go to Penguin Press for providing a copy of this book for me to read in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
September 14, 2017
All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control.

4 1/2 stars. You should go into this book expecting what it is: a slow-moving character portrait filled with complex family dynamics and small-town politics. If you know what this is, like with Ng's Everything I Never Told You, and don't go into it expecting fast-pacing and high-octane drama, you will probably find this quiet read to be extremely engrossing and emotional.

I have to be in the mood for this kind of read, but when I am, it packs a powerful punch. These characters are so vivid, so real, so caught up in the little fires of everyday life in Shaker Heights. There's several stories going on in here, but the book begins with literal fires lighting up the Richardson household and the knowledge that the youngest daughter, Izzy, the wild card, has disappeared. Presumably because she is guilty of the arson.

Then we move back from there. We start to get a portrait of the events leading up to this dramatic fire. We see the poor artist, Mia, and her daughter, Pearl, move into town and the effect they have on all members of the Richardson family. Further back, we get the past stories of almost every character who comes into this book. It is such a rich work in which the personal stories and experiences of secondary characters play a huge part in influencing how events unfold.

And, behind it all, is a court case that will affect all the characters lives. A custody battle over a Chinese baby who could be given every toy, every desire, every opportunity by her rich and white adoptive parents - but is that all? Is that enough when her poor birth mother is ready and willing to care for her? Things become very tense. The town becomes divided. And I felt an emotional wreck by the end of it, too.
Mrs. Richardson, however, could not let Izzy be, and the feeling coalesced in all of them: Izzy pushing, her mother restraining, and after a time no one could remember how the dynamic had started, only that it had existed always.

The Richardson family, along with Mia and Pearl, Bebe, and the McCulloughs, all pulled me into their lives. I despised a character at one point, only to find pity for them a couple of chapters later. The relationship between Izzy and her mother was a real point of interest for me. How Mrs. Richardson's fears about Izzy affected her behaviour toward her, which in turn affected how Izzy behaved. All leading to the ultimate question: was Izzy always what Mrs. Richardson feared she was? Or did Mrs. Richardson create what she most feared through her treatment of Izzy?

Little Fires Everywhere is a great example of how small character dynamics can create a powerful and fascinating story. I love the empathy the author shows for all the people in this book - even the manipulative, morally corrupt and undeserving. No one is merely good or bad. And that is what makes the book so effective. Whose side am I on? I'll let you know if I ever figure it out.

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Profile Image for Melissa.
647 reviews28.6k followers
November 5, 2018
*4.25 stars*

Little Fires Everywhere is such an apt title for a novel that delves into the intricacies and angst that undoubtedly burns through some relationships—maybe none more so than mother and daughter. At its core, this story explores the notion that being a mother doesn’t mean being perfect; it comes down to love, sacrifice and sheer will. Through her cast of captivating characters, Celeste Ng confronts the reality that haunts us all—each and every one of us is rife with cracks and flaws, no matter how well we hide it from prying eyes. That’s just life.

It’s akin to pure magic when you pick up a book from an author you haven’t read before—I know, what’s wrong with me? How did I miss Everything I Never Told You?—and find yourself caught up in what can only be described as book nirvana. I had heard Celeste Ng’s writing style was incredible, but I took that with a grain of salt—merely an attempt on my part to avoid disappointment. What I didn’t anticipate was this level of character development. This level of intricate detail and the multifaceted beings I wanted nothing more than to surround myself with.

I have to admit, it was Mia that started out as my least favorite of the bunch. Her artsy-fartsy, gypsy-ways came off as incredibly selfish. A mother sacrificing any sense of stability for her daughter, in an attempt to chase her next inspiration, rubbed me the wrong way. How could she not stay in one place and let her incredibly smart daughter thrive?

Then we meet Mrs. Richardson who’s been hell-bent on living the life she laid out so perfectly in her mind. From most angles she has it all—steady career, lovely home, successful husband, wealth and four children. A conundrum of sorts, she’s tenacious, but still somehow oblivious. Initially, I wasn’t really sure what to make of her or her motives—was I reading more into things than I should?

What binds these two very different women together is their teenage children who have their own fires burning between them and a custody battle that rocks their small town. The women end up on opposing sides of the equation, only working to further highlight their differences. The author juxtaposes these two women in many aspects—but not overtly so—and by the end, I was stunned.

What struck me the most about this journey was the author’s ability to change my entire perspective—meaning, my thoughts and feelings in the beginning of the story were vastly different by the time I turned that final page. Some aspects ended on a sad note, but overall it was still a satisfying ending to what I can only describe as a fully immersive novel.

I had the pleasure of reading this with the Traveling Sisters group; what a fun experience it turned out to be. Celeste Ng gave us plenty to discuss. Looking forward to the next read sisters. ♥

*Thank you to Penguin Press and Edelweiss for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,815 followers
January 4, 2019

If this book does not get your brain churning, well, then you did not read the same book I just did!

This book is filled with so many scenarios with so many questions and no perfect answers. Every situation is a little pile of kindling and any of the questionable solutions will only ignite the fire . . . soon you have a bunch of fires ready to burn everything to the ground. Man, that would be a great title for this book! Oh . . . wait . . .

It has been a long time since I remember reading a book where my mind and problem solving skills have been this challenged. Usually when you are reading you think, "well, the best route for them to follow is this" or "Geez, it's obvious that they should never have done that." In this book I just kept thinking, "I am glad I am not the one who has to make any of these decisions!"

Also, this book is full of so many misunderstandings. I get frustrated when someone is falsely accused or the wrong conclusion is assumed. Every 15 minutes I found myself yelling at this book!




I believe I have said it before, but any time a book has you engaged so much you yell at it, want to pull the characters out of the pages and shake them, and/or need a stiff drink to calm your nerves at the end of each chapter, you are reading a pretty darn good book.

Give your analytical side a gift and read this book - it would be a great one for a book club. I imagine it would certainly lead to some lively discussion!
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews112k followers
May 5, 2020
4.5 stars. I was hooked while listening to the audiobook and finished it in 2 days. The family dynamics, tension, and nuance is well done. The themes about parenting and motherhood - what is considered "good" parenting and who is a "good" mother - was such an interesting exploration, along with how white suburbia can be suffocating and push for conformity. But most of all, I loved the portrayal of well-intentioned yet ignorant white and upperclass people, and the gap between a privileged and white POV versus an immigrant in poverty. It’s done in such a subtle way that’s not in your face and gives readers enough room to explore and think through these issues for ourselves. The only reason why I hesitate to give this 5 stars is I don’t think much was done with Mrs. Richardson’s kids for readers to care about. I think the ending would have been more impactful if the kids had been better developed and thus have a well-rounded cast of characters.
Profile Image for Kat.
263 reviews79.5k followers
March 11, 2020
my LORD i truly enjoyed this.

there were a few minor things with the pacing that i would have changed just a smidge, and it didn't impact me quite as much as ng's debut, but this was beautiful and wonderful in its own way. i am SO excited for the adaptation. also, i can safely say now that celeste ng is one of my favorite authors and the next thing that she writes cannot come quickly enough.

read!! this! book!!!
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.4k followers
April 4, 2020
UPDATE: have just watched the first episode of this tv show on Hulu. as someone who really loved the book a lot before the adaptation was even announced: I am a very big fan. Kerry Washington as Mia is a really good choice. also, for personal reasons, Pearl is my favorite character now.

“Most of the time, everyone deserves more than one chance. We all do things we regret now and then. You just have to carry them with you.”

Never in my life have I read any book, any narrative, that cared as deeply for all of its characters as this one did. Little Fires Everywhere lives in the grey area, leaving it impossible not to be invested, impossible not to love every character and cry for every character and root for every character, despite all their flaws.

I really struggle to characterize this book; it’s sort of a combination between a mystery and literary fiction, and will probably work best for you if you’re a fan of both? Little Fires Everywhere is a very slow-burn story about a small town thrown into disarray by a court dispute. When an Asian baby given up by her mother is adopted by a white family, it causes a spiral of events that lead to a scene of a house on fire and a family driven away.

I think I’ve already expressed this, but this book is.... a masterpiece. It’s one of those books that I finished and then was just on my bed tearing up because it’s so well-crafted. The reason this book is so fantastic is primarily structural; we see the end, and then we go back and see the beginning.

But anyway, the reason this book works so well is the characterization. There is so much to appreciate here. I like that Moody is sort of written as the stereotypical jilted nice guy, and and then we see more nuance to that characterization. I loved the complexity of the dynamic between poor characters and rich characters; I loved how no character is black and white, but they have definition nonetheless.

Of the approximately-eleven-person main cast, Izzy is my absolute favorite. Izzy is a ridiculously relatable character for me personally mainly through her relationship with her mom. There’s a line somewhere where Izzy says she thinks her mother sees her as such a demon that all her actions are framed in that light - that was me. And that is still me in my relationship with one of my parents. The degree to which the narrative of this book validates her trauma and her feelings is incredible.

And on another very personal note, Mia… kind of reminds me of another. Some of you who follow me on this platform might now that my mom and I are really, really close, and I grew up with her as my main support system. And I think… her relationship with Izzy just felt so personal to me for that reason.

So maybe this was too personal a read for me, but I’m going to be honest: it’s my belief that reading is something that is meant to be personal. And maybe the degree to which this personally affected me is the most important part of all.

There’s a scene within this book that has stuck with me since the beginning, in which the adoptive mother of the baby is asked how she plans to incorporate Chinese culture into the life of the baby, and she brings up “oriental rugs” and how she gives the baby rice. And it’s this awful moment, because we know she loves that baby. We do. But in that moment she becomes the persecutor of her own child. She does not understand, and so she perpetrates a culture that has been trying to swallow up her child. I think that’s what this book is about, in the end: the degrees to which we can hurt people without ever attempting to.

This book was masterful. And I hope you all read it.

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Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews100 followers
February 3, 2018
So, self-identification determines if a book is YA? Based on more than 60% of the content, this is young adult material. It’s good; parts are excellent, others not so much.

I liked Mia’s backstory as she became an artist using experimental photography. I thought that the custody dispute concerning “Oriental Barbie” was worth at least a star or two.

A lot of the characters are clichéd. The at-home Mr. Richardson could be a cardboard cutout with excellent earning skills. He fairs a lot better before the judge. The Richardson children fit into “The Breakfast Club” well. A jock, a popular girl, a smart kid and Izzy who may well be a transgendered Holden Caulfield (thank you to my GR friend, Bill Kupersmith), but I liked her a lot more than that wretched boy.

So yeah, the Richardson’s have a child for each grade in high-school. Mrs. Richardson produced four singletons in roughly as many years. While in other respects, she is a perfect match for her orderly and rule-bound community. The rapid-fire baby production seemed reckless and out of place. It is the only part of her character that jibbed with aggressively investigating her tenant and employee’s past. Opening a ‘can of worms’ and a house full of screaming babies being equally disordered and unpredictable.

I don’t believe that she is meant to be likable. She approaches friendship with same calculation as Claire Underwood with a careful tally of every kindness. But, as she is central to the book, I wish she were plausible. Even if she were perfectly constructed, the story is still awfully scattered.

My son heard part of the book while we were driving over the holidays. When we stopped, he would say “So” and give a one-sentence summary of the upcoming section or chapter. I don’t believe he has any preternatural gifts as plot savant. A lot of the story is pretty predictable.

I have a quibble about that car. Is that the same VW rabbit Mia’s brother bought when they were teenagers? If so, how did she manage vehicle maintenance on minimum wage earnings supplemented by occasionally selling a piece of art? Twenty to thirty years of use is aging NASA spacecraft territory, but this car starts reliably, runs well over long distances, and doesn’t need any repairs. It seems oddly out of place given the careful mathematics of Bebe’s poverty.

P.S. I stand corrected my son says he is too a plot savant.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,000 reviews35.9k followers
May 3, 2020
Update.... because I don’t know where else to ask this question: how many saw the Hulu series?
I loved it. I liked it better than my experience of reading the book.
The lead and supporting actors were so well chosen. Kerry Washington was outstanding......
I think she deserves to win an award for her acting role.
Reece was great also. And so are her kids.

Did anyone else enjoy the series more than the book? Less?
Coronavirus chatter time? 🥰. Love yo hear others thoughts.

Old review:
I pre-ordered this book months ago. It arrived at 12:01am today. I’ve been reading non - stop.... a one- sitting read with a few necessity breaks.

Here's is my problem....
I feel as if I've read this story before. I was only mildly interested in many scenes.
There were parts I found trite and parts I found semi boring.
Personally - I found the characters to be very one dimensional.

Here's another problem I have:
Yesterday I finished reading "In The Fall They Come Back", by Robert Bausch. I saw a lot of similarities in these two books, but this novel didn't 'wow' me nearly as much.

This story 'seemed' like it had all the elements I usually love .....
The wealthy and thrifty battle it out...plus moral issues to think about ...but my heart wasn't always in it. Not sure why. It could be me.

For one thing..... I spent summers in Shaker Heights .... I felt this book could have been written anywhere. Plus.... I'm not sure I appreciated some of the stereotyping of this community.

BUT ....here's a small flavor of the characters you'll spend time with:

'The Richardson's family':
Bill is an attorney and drives a BMW Sedan
Elena is a wife & mom..... works for the local newspaper: 'Sun Press'. She drives a Lexus

Lexie -senior drives an explorer- has the lead in her School play. Seems fruity & shallow at times - but is an excellent student
Trip - a junior - drives a jeep - loves sports - handsome -fit --and charming
Moody - sophomore- rides a bike ( bless him) - most compassionate- very bright -introspective
Izzy - Freshman- considered black sheep of the bunch - feels different than others in her family.

'The Warren's: They recently moved into a rental ( a duplex) that the Richardsons own.
Mia- 36 years old, single mom, artist. Mia drives a VW Rabbit. She would rather mop floors any day- quietly alone- than have to wait on customers.
Pearl -15 years old - Mia's daughter - shy - honors student -

Paul, my husband, is rushing me - he says RETIRE.... lol.....
So.....I LIKED IT.....but..... after several great books I've recently read, I can't say I'm 'wild' about it. It was ok!!! - alright - better than OK!
Worth reading! Others may love it!
3.6 stars
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,194 reviews40.5k followers
May 1, 2022
There are some books when you finish, you just sit motionless with blank face, feeling speechless, resuming your awkward position for hours and then you turn back into your life after getting frozen by a magical dramatic literary wand’s power. That’s what happened to me. And I realized I haven’t written any word about this stunning, amazing book and now Witherspoon and Washington’s Hulu series is streaming right now and it seems like scriptwriter Liz Tigelaar caught the essence of the plot and reflected into 8 great episodes (especially episode 7 was remarkably the best and heartfelt one) And Witherspoon’s Elena is her best book character composition. I highly recommend it! (Better than Big Little Lies)

So here we go: this book is character driven, slow burn drama which will help a lot turn into series to give us so much details and realistic portraits about characters, always works well for me. Small town dynamics, dysfunctional family issues, class differences, morality about a child’s own destiny, hypocrisy, lies, secrets mixing each other and slow-building tension rises at the end with powerful, thought- provoking, twisty ending leaves you speechless.

Welcome to Shaker Heights! Richardson household is burning into fire and their daughter Izzy is nowhere to be seen. She might be responsible of this chaos. Then we slowly going back and forth between the snippets of Richardson family’s relationship with poor artist Mia and her daughter Pearl who became their tenants and afterwards.

And behind their story, there is custody war over a Chinese baby’s adoption by Richardson family’s close friends. Should baby be adopted by people who are so rich and ready to present her every opportunity she’s dreamed of or should her biological mother take the custody even though they may suffer from poorness and financial struggles?

Unhealthy, ballistic relationship with Izzy and her mother and striking differences between Mia and Elena and too many lies and secrets’ revelations change everything in their lives. When the fire starts to destroy everything they had in their lives, they need to start from scratch and learn from their mistakes.

It’s powerful, emotional, questioning, unique story. I know it’s so challenging to pick a side because nobody is blameless and innocent. I hope we see a good adaption without losing the essence of the story and its well-crafted characterization.

Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
September 21, 2017
I'd rate this 3.5 stars. (I know, it's killing me, too.)

Sometimes one of my greatest frustrations with books I read is that it is difficult for me to believe that a character would do something egregious as a knee-jerk reaction to something they don't agree with. I know, I'm reading fiction, which isn't always directly based on real life, but sometimes a character's actions are so ridiculous and ring so false that they really change my feelings about a book.

Other times a character is so unlikable (although you may discover it's all an act) that they're just so off-putting, and they detract from the book's appeal.

Both things happened for me while reading Celeste Ng's new book, Little Fires Everywhere , and I'm so disappointed, because I wanted to love it. While I found much of the book simply beautiful, the plot—and one character—travel down a path that I found a little too far-fetched and irritating that it spoiled how I felt.

To someone on the outside looking in, the Richardson family seems like the quintessential Shaker Heights, Ohio family—two successful and driven parents, four good-looking children, sure to follow in their parents' footsteps. The perception isn't all false—Elena Richardson, who returned to her hometown after college to raise a family, is a reporter for the local paper; her husband is a successful attorney. Their children, each one year apart, are each popular and successful in their own way, except the youngest, Izzy, who has a knack for standing out, especially if it means pushing her mother's buttons.

When Mia Warren, an enigmatic, slightly bohemian artist, and her daughter Pearl arrive in Shaker Heights, and move into the Richardsons' rental apartment, the family quickly falls under their spell. Pearl, who has moved more times than she can count, always on her mother's whim, has finally extracted a promise from Mia that they will stay in Shaker Heights, and she is excited to finally be able to make friends and cement relationships instead of biding her time until she leaves town again.

Pearl and the Richardsons' younger son, Moody, become close friends, although quickly she becomes a part of the family. Mia, too, in addition to working on her art, begins working for the Richardsons, becoming an unexpected confidante for older daughter Lexie, and forging a relationship with Izzy that she can't have with her mother. But Mia is also wary of the Richardsons and doesn't quite trust that all is as perfect as it seems.

When a custody battle involving one of Elena's oldest friends becomes fodder for the media, everyone in town has an opinion. Elena discovers that she and Mia are on opposite sides of this fight, which causes Elena to view Mia with suspicion. Suddenly she feels the need to find more about this mysterious woman who holds her family in her thrall, and Elena doesn't realize—or care, really—about what damage the truth may cause, for everyone.

"All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control. It scaled walls and jumped over trenches. Sparks leapt like fleas and spread as rapidly; a breeze could carry embers for miles. Better to control that spark and pass it carefully from one generation to the next, like an Olympic torch. Or, perhaps, to tend it carefully like an eternal flame: a reminder of light and goodness that would never—could never—set anything ablaze. Carefully controlled. Domesticated. Happy in captivity. The key, she thought, was to avoid conflagration."

Little Fires Everywhere is a powerful meditation on motherhood and the sometimes-tenuous bond between mother and child. It's also a book about the destructive power of secrets, misunderstandings, and miscommunication, and how easily problems could be avoided if people would just say what they thought, or speak up rather than let a person roll over them. At its most poignant, this is a book about the damage that can be done by neglect or mistreatment, even when it's unintended, and how finding someone who seems to care about you can be a life-changing force.

Ng is a storyteller with such quiet power. As she did in her spectacular first novel, Everything I Never Told You , she captures the routine and dramatic moments in a family's life, uncovering just how much goes on underneath the silences. While I appreciate her fearlessness in creating unappealing characters, I really was unhappy with some of her choices, which I won't reveal for fear of spoiling the plot, but they just seemed so ludicrous (and in one case, just a wee bit convenient and predictable) that one character and her treatment of others became almost one-dimensional.

I've seen many glowingly positive reviews of this book, so I wouldn't let my criticisms dissuade you from reading it if it interests you. Ng is an immense talent, and I look forward to seeing what's next for her. If you do read this, I would love to talk to you after you're finished, to see what you thought about the things that frustrated me.

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews66.2k followers
January 8, 2019
I think it's safe to say that I'll read everything Celeste Ng ever writes.
Just like in a mystery book, you have to work at getting to the root of her stories. She doesn't hand you the plot from the get-go, but instead offers you kernels of the story until everything comes together at the very end. Although this can lead to frustration or boredom, especially with the sometimes barebones plot, I loved it.
I'm very much a character-focused reader, and this was very much a character-focused novel. There's not much action driving this book forward. It's slow paced, but this gives us the time to dive deeper into the nuances of the complicated situation these characters are placed into. By examining from all sides, we are shown how both humans and their choices are complicated.
If you like character studies, complex relationships, and a '90s suburban setting, please pick this up!
Profile Image for Emily.
698 reviews2,023 followers
February 12, 2018
I really did not want to read this book. Unfortunately for me, it was a book club pick, so I read it in one sitting on a plane. I was grumpy for the first hundred pages, which I thought might have been unwarranted. Most of my initial ire went to this: what was the purpose of setting this so firmly in 1998?? Why does the book double down so much on referencing TLC, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, Lexie's Explorer, and Charlie's Angels? (The date was confirmed for sure 254 pages into the book, when the date of May Ling's appearance at the fire station is stated as January 1997, but by then I was so oversaturated with Pearl using the dial-up internet in the library that I didn't care.) Maybe I am just being uncharitable, I thought, because I loved Lady Bird, a movie that is firmly set in 2002. Upon reflection, however, I have determined that the core difference between these two artistic attempts is that Lady Bird is actually good. This is not.

This book sets up some interesting questions and themes around family, motherhood, and social conformity. The problem is that the author has a very clear answer to all of these questions, conveyed through very clumsy third-person narration. The third-person perspective switches between characters rapidly, just in time for them to have insights that seem out-of-place or too pat. Seventeen-year-old Trip Richardson, interested in girls and partying, thinks pensively that Pearl Warren "linger[s] comfortably in the grey spaces" between right and wrong. More egregiously, the family patriarch, Mr. Richardson, gets exactly one paragraph from his perspective, and it's this one:
He should have known better than to bring it up, he realized: it was too personal for her; she couldn't see clearly; she was so close that she didn't even realize how unclearly she was seeing ... But the problem with rules, he reflected, was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time there were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure which side of the line you stood on.

It's one thing to set up this tension, between conformity and independence, and quite another to use a minor character as an authorial mouthpiece to hammer your point home so obviously. Do you not trust your story or your readers to do this work for you?

The other big problem with the writing is that the author clearly favors Mia Warren, who is set up as a foil to Elena Richardson. Elena is a conforming suburban mother who downgraded her career to focus on her children, while Mia is a free-wheeling artist who not only knows how to live life outside the lines, but is (we are supposed to believe) a better mother than all of those repressed Shaker Heights mothers combined. I could not stand Mia Warren. If the author hadn't been so enamored with Mia, it's possible that I'd like her more; as it is, Mia , which is TOTALLY CRAZY. I don't think the book understands how truly bananas this is and how far divorced from reality these plot points are: . I almost sympathize with Elena Richardson, because I wanted to throttle Mia (and I didn't actually have to spend any time with her), but then I remember the incredibly ridiculous and poorly written scene in which Elena .

The one plot I found interesting was the story of May Ling/Mirabelle and her adoption, but this doesn't get very much page time. And again, this gets put through Mia's lens. I think the book could have worked better if at least one of the plot lines were removed to focus on this as a central conflict.

Anyway, I'm a little surprised at how well this book is reviewed. I think you either have to really like slavish detail about Shaker Heights in 1998, or you have to enjoy reading a book where the author constantly moralizes at you. I fall into neither of those categories.
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
March 13, 2021

February's Reading Vlog is out today!
The Written Review
Shaker Heights is the quintessential quiet town. Until Mia (and her daughter, Pearl) come to town.

The Richardsons have lived in Shaker Heights from the literal moment it was created and they rent out one of their houses to low-income families (such as Mia).

Mia is an artist and throughout Pearl's life, they've traveled from town-to-town as Mia creates art and then sells it.

But this town? It's different.

For the first time, Mia promises Pearl that they will settle down.

And at first everything is just as Pearl pictured it. She quickly befriends the Richardson kids, school is challenging but satisfying and she even has a crush on a boy.

But then thing take a turn for the worse. Little fires everywhere.

Overall thoughts on this one - DANG it was good.

The way Celeste Ng crafts this gorgeous book hooked me from the start.

The characters were beautifully intricate - they all felt like real people (even the secondary/tertiary ones!).

I loved how my thoughts/opinions on them were constantly shifting. A character that I hated at the beginning turned into one of my favorites, and one that I adored became someone I abhorred.

The plot itself was a juggling masterpiece - so many different subplots constantly held up in the air and I never knew which one I wanted to follow next.

Honestly, I don't want to say anything more - just pick it up!

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,133 reviews8,134 followers
September 16, 2017
When I read Celeste Ng's debut novel Everything I Never Told You in late 2014, I was smitten. Ng's writing was so beautiful, her characters so real, and the story so compelling. I instantly knew I would be reading whatever she put out next.

Three years later and I'm happy to say that Ng has returned with just as stunning of a novel as her debut. Little Fires Everywhere is hands down one of the best books I've read this year; and just like its predecessor will be rising to the top of my yearly favorites list.

I don't want to say too much about this novel because with Ng's books, I've discovered, it's best to go in anticipating very little and being surprised along the way. Because she is very good at surprises—and not the kind of plot twists you'll read in a thriller or spy novel; the kind of surprises that sneak up on you in real life and seem to tear your world apart. Her novels are domestic, but they aren't quaint. They have a raw, emotional power to them that are especially drawn out by her incredibly crafted characters. The inner turmoil is just as important as the external conflict in her stories, and that makes for a compulsively readable, yet immensely relatable read. You can empathize with so many parties in her stories, and this one is no exception.

To me, these characters jumped from the pages; they have the mannerism (she's so observant, akin to Adichie in that sense) and the motivations of people you know in your own life. Mrs. Richardson's ethics and worldview are as real and as contrary as Mia's artistic sentiments. And you can't help feeling for both of them at times. That's what makes this story so good—there is no black and white, despite the obviously drawn lines between the differing characters. Ng exists in the grey, and her mission, it seems to me, is to pull you in to the grey too and think about how murky and complicated and messy life is.

I'll stop gushing, but only as long as people go pick this up and read it (along with her first novel too)! Ng is surely one of my favorite living writers, and, again, I can't wait to see what she does next.
Profile Image for Federico DN.
348 reviews612 followers
June 9, 2022
Some people need to cut ties to have a fresh start, others only need to say goodbye, and some people, some people just need to burn everything down.

A fire starts in the idyllic land of Shaker Heights. Residence of the Richardson family, the reliable parents Bill and Elena, and their lovely kids, Trip, Lexie, Moody and Izzy. The perfect Richardson family, watching their perfect dreamed house ablaze, with imperfect little fires, lighting every single room. Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl, the tenants of their rental house, mysteriously gone the day before. Who started the fire, but more importantly, why?

When you find yourself wanting to finish a book, and at the same time, not wanting it to end, then you realize you stumbled upon something good. A remarkable read indeed. An almost-favorite status earned. This novel touches some important topics like motherhood. privilege and accountability in a very meaningful way. Excellent character development. The entitlement of the Richardson family can be kind of tiresome, but it works wonders with the carefree spirit of the Warrens. I specially loved pretty much everything about Mia’s past (and present) and all the bits about photography. Almost made me want to start photography myself.

Still remaining, the mini-series (2020).

PERSONAL NOTE : Most of my ‘currently-reading’ are already ‘read’, just been too lazy to review. This book was powerful enough to move me to do it.
My respects, Celeste Ng.

[2017] [338p] [Fiction] [Recommendable] [Almost Favorite] [Motherhood] [Photography]

Algunas personas necesitan cortar lazos para empezar de nuevo, otras sٌólo necesitan decir adiós, y algunas personas, algunas personas simplemente necesitan quemar todo.

Un fuego empieza en la idílica tierra de Shaker Heights. Residencia de la familia Richardson, los confiables padres Bill y Elena, y sus adorables hijos Trip, Lexie, Moody e Izzy. La perfecta familia Richardson, observando su perfecta soñada casa ardiendo, con pequeños imperfectos fuegos, iluminando cada habitación. Mia Warren y su hija Pearl, los inquilinos de su casa de alquiler, misteriosamente ausentes desde el día anterior. ¿Quién inició el fuego, pero más importante, por qué?

Cuando estás queriendo acabar un libro, y al mismo tiempo, no queriendo que termine, entonces sabés que encontraste algo bueno. Una lectura verdaderamente destacable. Una clasificación casi-favorito ganada. Esta novela trata importantes tópicos como la maternidad, privilegio y responsabilidad en una forma muy significativa. Excelente desarrollo de personajes. La soberbia de los Richardson puede ser algo cansador, pero funciona de maravillas en contraste con el espíritu libre de los Warrens. Amé especialmente casi todo sobre el pasado de Mia (y presente) y todas las partes sobre fotografía. Casi me hace querer empezar a fotografiar como pasatiempo.

Todavía pendiente, la miniserie (2020).

NOTA PERSONAL : Casi todos mis ‘actualmente-leyendo’ ya están ‘leídos’, sólo estoy muy vago para reseñarlos. Este libro fue lo suficientemente poderoso como para motivarme a hacerlo.
Mis respetos, Celeste Ng.

[2017] [338p] [Ficción] [Recomendable] [Casi Favorito] [Maternidad] [Fotografía]
Profile Image for emma.
1,822 reviews48.1k followers
April 16, 2023
Here's the thing:
I could tell you this book is really good.

I could tell you that the characters feel incredibly real and lovable.

I could tell you that this story sweeps you up and feels unputdownable more than any thriller I've read in ages.

I could tell you that the writing style is immersive.

In short, I could tell you to just get on with the inevitable already and read this.

But like...Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington and the New York Times bestseller list already told you all of that.

So listen to them instead.

Bottom line: Worth the hype!!


celeste ng is the master.

review to come / 4.25 stars

currently-reading updates

i'm obsessed with reading books after they've been adapted into a tv show or movie when i have absolutely no intention of watching the adaptation.

it's a real conversation starter.


taking lily's idea and reading only books by asian authors this month!

book 1: the incendiaries
book 2: last night at the telegraph club
book 3: dear girls
book 4: sigh, gone
book 5: frankly in love
book 6: emergency contact
book 7: your house will pay
book 8: convenience store woman
book 9: on earth we're briefly gorgeous
book 10: we are not free
book 11: searching for sylvie lee
book 12: the displaced
book 13: schoolgirl
book 14: sweet bean paste
book 15: little fires everywhere
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
531 reviews58.4k followers
October 26, 2017
4.5 It's my first novel by Celeste Ng and even though Literary Fiction/Contemporary isn't my genre, I really enjoyed this one. I now have to pick up "Everything I Never Told You" which has been on my shelves for way too long!

Would recommend if you're looking for a slow character driven book full of emotions!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,533 reviews32.3k followers
August 6, 2019
‘all her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. it so easily went out of control.’

i honestly wasnt expecting to enjoy this book. i didnt really like celeste ngs debut and i thought this was probably overhyped. but this is one of the few occasions where i am actually happy to admit i was wrong.

i knew from the first chapter, where the title comes into play, that i was in for a real treat. if you dont know by now, i love when a book is so aptly named. sometimes titles can come across as lazy or appear as an afterthought, so there is nothing i love more than when a title is given some meaning and depth. and this book does that perfectly.

i love how this book explores so many themes - such as motherhood, race, friendship, community, children - each one a little fire that slowly burned into an explosion of a story. i think ng is so clever in how she likens so many topics to a fire, bright with a burning intensity and heat. but with fire and scorched earth can come new beginnings. izzys character is definitely the highlight for me. i loved seeing her come to accept this idea and burn her own way, blazing a path of her own choosing.

i know this wont be a book for everyone due to its slow pace and prominent focus on character histories, but there is definitely a reason this book is so highly rated. and i am very relieved that i enjoyed such a great work of fiction.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,159 reviews36.8k followers
December 2, 2017
5 Amazing Bright Shiny Stars! I would give it 100 if Goodreads would let me.

Little Fires Everywhere is a novel that far surpasses any other that I have ever read.
I don't know how Celeste Ng did it. It is a brilliantly written novel with intricate, rich and wholly vivid characters whose lives are so fully intertwined you can't help but read on in bewildered awe of how Celeste Ng created these characters. My nerve endings were fully engaged on high alert from the first sentence.

Shaker Heights, Ohio is an affluent town with rules and regulations like no other. Mrs. Richardson lives by them, having been raised by them and she has raised her four children (Lexie, Trip, Moody and Izzy) to abide by them as well. She rents a little apartment in Shaker Heights to Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl, who are less fortunate. Mia is a free spirited artist, who lives life to the fullest. These women have one thing in common and one thing only: they love their children immensely and they accept each other's as their own. Mia (or rather Ms. Ng) describes it beautifully:

"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 existed at once. 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 like 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."

Neither live perfect lives, sometimes in fact they make grave mistakes, yet their love for their children never falters.

These mothers relationships with each other, their family and everyone in town is threatened when a custody battle ensues between a friend of the Richardsons, Mrs. and Mr. McCullough, who are in the middle of adopting a Chinese American baby and a friend of Mia's, Bebe, who is the birth mother. This battle wrecks havoc on the town and causes incredible strife between the families.

This novel is captivating and crazy compelling. These characters burn an indelible image onto your soul. The character of Izzy, Mrs. Richardson's daughter had me from the beginning (kind of like Hannah from Ms. Ng's Everything I Never Told You - which I also loved). Izzy has a strength and over came odds that most children in her position wouldn't. Her triumphs made my heart soar.

Somehow Ms. Ng made me change my mind about some of the characters throughout the course of this novel. In the beginning, I felt one way about two of the characters and then by the end, I did a complete switcheroo, and my feelings about them were FIERCE.

Little Fires everywhere brought forth laughter and lots of tears. It is that kind of novel. I can't recommend it highly enough. It is captivating, compelling and full of heart and soul. Celeste Ng's ability to intertwine the characters and storylines was wondrous, brilliant and beautiful. I loved every second of this book. It has now topped my list as my FAVORITE BOOK of ALL TIME.

Little Fires Everywhere was a Traveling Sister Group Read and included Brenda, Norma, Jennifer, Holly, Melissa & Kendall. We all had a fabulous time reading this one together - the group discussions for this incredible read were amazing and I look forward to our next read together.

For the full Traveling Sisters Group Review, please see Norma and Brenda's Blog:

Thank you to Edelweiss, Penguin Press and Celeste Ng for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Published on Goodreads, Edelweiss and Amazon on 9.17.17.
Profile Image for Maureen .
1,378 reviews7,089 followers
October 19, 2017
Metaphorically speaking, everyone has 'little fires' in their lives - events that begin as a small spark, and have the ability to transform into a raging inferno, changing lives for ever.

Shaker Heights, Cleveland is an idyllic place to live, everything has been planned to create the perfect community, but it's residents are expected to live by its many rules and regulations.

The Richardson's are quintessentially the kind of family who the community of Shaker Heights was built for. Elena Richardson was brought up with these rules, and she and her husband are determined that their four children, Lexie, Trip, Moody and Izzy will live by them too. Izzy isn't exactly a chip off the old block though, and will prove to be very disruptive.

The Richardson's rent out an apartment to people they feel need a helping hand, and their latest tenants are Mia and her daughter Pearl. Mia is a free spirit, an artist specialising in photography, and when Elena’s troublesome daughter Izzy becomes close to Mia, Elena finds that she's jealous of the relationship, a relationship that doesn't exist between her and Izzy. Further to this, an adoption case in the community puts Elena and Mia on opposing sides, and Elena decides to do some digging on Mia’s past, and uproots some secrets that will change everything.

Oh gosh, this book explores so many issues, but for me the one that stood out was motherhood, and in particular, the relationship between mothers and daughters, from baby's early days to teenage angst.

It was beautifully written, with characters so well developed I felt as if I knew them personally. I also liked the setting of Shaker Heights, a place so perfect and orderly, and yet, ultimately there is always someone who will rip up those precious rules and regulations and throw them in the garbage.

Celeste Ng writes with great insight and empathy, and leaves the reader with much to think about.

*Thank you to Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group for my ARC in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,284 reviews2,205 followers
June 27, 2017

The Richardson family lives a perfect life, planned to a T and that's what Elena Richardson, her husband and four children seem to have, at least to fifteen year old Pearl Warren. Pearl moves with her itinerant artist mother, Mia, into a rental house owned by the Richardsons in Shaker Heights and becomes infatuated with this family, their house, their life style so different from her own and is mostly infatuated with three of the teenage siblings. The reader though knows from the get go that there's no perfection here . An awful thing happens to this family and we know what it is from the first sentence but I won't give it away.

The Shaker Heights motto is: "Most communities just happen; the best are planned " : the underlying philosophy being that everything could - and should- be planned out, and that by doing so you could avoid the unseemly, the unpleasant, and the disastrous." The truth is that life happens and no matter what - things cannot be avoided and what happens here defies this underlying philosophy.

But this is not the most awful thing that happens in this family. For me it was the dysfunctional relationship that Elena has with her youngest daughter Izzy . Izzy reminds me in some ways of Hannah in Ng's last book, Everything I Never Told You. Unlike Hannah, Izzy is not invisible not totally ignored, but she is picked on, made fun of and seems to always be the recipient of her mother's impatience with things that are not perfect. Theirs is not the only mother-daughter relationship that Ng focuses on . There is Mia and Pearl, who move from place to place, with Pearl not knowing the reason why or who her father was. There is Bebe, Mia's coworker, and her newborn baby May-Ling that she abandons and then fights to get custody. Bebe's story at first seems secondary but it ends up being the impetus for Elena's almost obsessive search to find out Mia's past.

Ng delves deep into her characters and you feel you know them inside and out even though it takes until the end to fully understand Elena and Izzy. You may not like all of them but you will understand them . This I find to be Ng's strength as a writer- how she makes us know her characters. One of the most poignant scenes in the novel, is when the Richardsons find the photographs that Mia leaves for them. She came to know them too . Definitely recommended to those who were fans of Everything I Never Told You, and stories of families who are less than perfect, which I'm sure many of us can relate to.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Penguin Publishing Group through Edelweiss.
The book links are not working for me now but I'll try again later to insert them.
Profile Image for Warda.
1,152 reviews18.3k followers
February 15, 2019
God, this was good. I’m speechless at this point of finishing the book. This story was pure magic. And to think I was about to unhaul it as well. The abomination. Can you imagine what I was about to miss out on?!
Don’t worry, I kicked myself already!

Celeste Ng’s words are beyond captivating. She has, for me, created one of the best character driven stories ever. I’m not going to bother telling you what the plot is about. Go find out for yourself! You’re welcome! I’m serious, you are welcome!

As soon as I started reading, the writing drew me in. She is a master at letting the writing speak for itself. The mystery? It came from her writing. The intriguing plot? The writing. The conflict I was experiencing? The writing. The characters that I felt I knew to my core and actually existed for me? The flippin’ writing did it all.

I kept on rereading a sentence because I felt that I could extract more meaning, more magic from it. I was relishing in it, holding it close for a while before I moved on to the next sentence and let it go.
But then I stumbled across one of those magical sentences again and the cycle started all over again.

As for the characters, well, they were a treat. In the sense that if you enjoy reading characters that’ve been well-developed, that are layered, nuanced, flawed and realistic, this book is it for you. It was, essentially, a character study. You get to know them intimately and I enjoyed that aspect the most. These characters are not black and white. Each of them had their reasoning as to why they did what they did, the choices they made and the viewpoints they had. I loved this point was honed in time and time again; that circumstances shape who you are, who you become. That there are many different paths to living your life and that most of the time, things fall under the grey area.

There were so many questions that were thrown at the reader and I liked that one had to think for oneself. The answers weren’t handed to you, because does life have all of the answers? You make choices and deal with the consequences, whether good or bad. It created for an interesting discussion and battle within my own head.

One of my favourite books for sure.


Buddy-reading with this gem of a human!

This book has been receiving non-stop praise. You people better have not been lying about it.
Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
792 reviews12.3k followers
December 24, 2017
Intensely complex, multi layered, and intricately plotted Little Fires Everywhere is a profoundly complicated and jarring read about motherhood, freedom, and the human experience.

When unconventional artist Mia and her fifteen year old daughter, Pearl, move to Shaker Heights, Ohio their lives dramatically change. Of even great significance is their impact on the seemingly perfect Richardson family. On the surface, the Richardson’s seem to have it all--perfect house, perfect jobs, perfect children (minus one), but something is missing. Living in the bubble of the cookie cutter community of Shaker Heights, their world is insular and small. Mia and Pearl’s presence shakes them to the core and opens them up to a world of new possibilities.

Told through the eyes of multiple characters, this is a slow burn read with fluid changes of POV. While one of the main events occurs in the first chapter, it isn't until the end that one can fully understand the implications of "the little fires everywhere."

Here’s the thing--when I first started reading this, I had a hard time connecting to the characters and the plot. Several times I wanted to give up and start another book, but Ng’s beautiful writing kept pulling me back in. It wasn’t until about half way through, I felt the subtle spark of connection, and as it grew my feelings about this book grew. When I got to the end, I was simply stunned by how this book snuck up on me and overpowered my emotions. To sum up my reading experience: “And it was complicated, what had happened. It was a terribly awkward agonizingly slow, painfully intimate story that unfolded.”
Profile Image for R.K. Gold.
Author 14 books10.1k followers
November 30, 2020
I'd probably give this 3.5, I guess. I don't know. I didn't like this book, but I feel like I should. Ng is a phenomenal writer but I just couldn't get into this book. The first chapter was amazing and I thought I was in for something special.

There was a clear theme of ignorance in the "progressive" town of Shaker Heights that only outsiders and Izzy could see. The reason I couldn't get into this book was that all the supporting characters felt a little thin. Like they weren't actually people, they were just there to show how ignorant and selfish the people of Shaker Heights were.

Mia was obviously a fantastic character and had multiple chapters dedicated to her backstory and why she became the artist she was/why she had the feelings about the central conflict that she had. By the end of the story it felt like there really wasn't a choice. Mia's side was clearly in the right and the Richardsons and the McCulloughs were too ignorant to ever really support. I don't know. I know there are people like them in the world. I know why this book is so popular and it deserves the success it's had.

I just couldn't get into it.
Profile Image for Liz.
2,017 reviews2,515 followers
March 20, 2018
At first glance, this book seems to be mostly about teenagers, but then it struck me that it’s really about parenting. Each parent thinks they’re doing the right things in the way they raise their children. But who truly is?

Ng does a good job of bringing each character to life. Izzy is the most unique of the characters. And the relationship between Izzy and Mrs. Richardson is spot on perfect. “When it came to Izzy, Mrs. Richardson was seldom calm, and for that matter, Izzy herself never was.”

There are multiple storylines here, all equally fascinating. The one that grabbed me the most was between Bebe Chow and the McCulloughs. I flip flopped back and forth between whose side I was on. The heartache of both sides was palpable.

It took a while for the book to truly grab me. But once it did, it really did. The title is so apt. Not just the physical fire, but the fires that burn within the characters, especially the fire that ignited in Mrs. Richardson.

It’s interesting that the author refers to Mrs. Richardson by her formal name, whereas everyone else is called by their first name. It suits her perfectly, as she is such a stickler for tradition and following the rules.

This is a fascinating book with a lot going for it. Five rich stars!

Update - both of my book clubs had this as their selection this month. In both cases, the discussions were great. Any clubs looking for ideas, I highly recommend.
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