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May 2018: Family Drama > Little Fires Everywhere Discussion (Spoilers Possible)

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message 1: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2097 comments This is the discussion thread for Little Fires Everywhere since we have several members reading this for the month.

Please feel free to discuss what you love and what you don't. If you are still reading, add where you are at in the book (by events, not page number)

Please Hide Your Spoilers as others have not finished the book yet


message 2: by Sue (new)

Sue | 1388 comments I read this just a few weeks ago - so I'm not re-reading this month. But I'd love to join the discussion with everyone.


message 3: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2097 comments Yes this discussion is for everyone who wishes to join. If you'd like, start it off


message 4: by Sue (last edited May 03, 2018 09:50PM) (new)

Sue | 1388 comments Jason wrote: "Yes this discussion is for everyone who wishes to join. If you'd like, start it off"

I'd be happy to start it off!

It's too early to share spoilers (and I don't know how to hide them - something for me to learn). So I'll share my general thoughts.

I had a lot of strong emotional reactions to this book. Many of the themes resonated with me personally or I've witnessed within my own family and close friends.

There were a few times I paused to think "what would I do?" I wanted to have an opinion formed about events before the author revealed what happens. Sometimes I was aligned with the author - but it was clear there were often no "right" answers to the difficult issues presented.

I read this last month as the group read for another GR group. And the discussions were wide ranging with people staking out their positions and describing why they agreed or disagreed with the decisions by any of the characters. No one was neutral, and the discussion was great.

I found this book wonderful and in some ways disturbing. The author has found the pulse of many tricky issues in our society, and this book will stick with me for a long time!



[I hope no one minds - I'm going to try a test spoiler here]:
(view spoiler)


message 5: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2097 comments Amy, here is the thread.


message 6: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9324 comments Ok - just wanted to add that I am definitely engaged in it, but a number of the themes are heartbreaking! I try to stay away from this particular theme. Joi - perhaps not for you. But it’s one I will be grateful to discuss when finished. Kelly is reading it too I think. I have a list going on my phone. Thanks for keeping out the spoilers.


message 7: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9324 comments At 55% and wow did the book just suddenly get super hot! Really drawn into it and wanting to see what happens next.


message 8: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2097 comments What just happened at 55%?


message 9: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2097 comments What do you think of the title as the boom progresses.


message 10: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2097 comments Book*


message 11: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9324 comments I know you said this was a spoilers thread but I’m not gonna do it just in case anyone gets on who isn’t quite done. Maybe there’s a way of quietly or surreptitiously telling you if I don’t tell you privately. OK lets give it a whirl: at the same time a particular drama is going on with the two teenage girls, a very Linked situation from the past with one of the moms is becoming uncovered. That’s when I was like whoa! I hope I did that well without telling the story to anybody who doesn’t need to know it yet.


message 12: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2097 comments Gotcha. I know where you are at. You can also use the hid spoiler feature.


message 13: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9324 comments And here I thought I did such a great job! Lol!


message 14: by Kelly (new)

Kelly | 848 comments Without saying what it was about, the whole court case was very interesting to me. The theme of it had characters and the town talking and picking sides. It was handled well and there are no easy answers.


message 15: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9324 comments Agreed. Heartbreaking, but well done.


message 16: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2097 comments Is everyone finished reading for the month? Let's get this thread rolling again.

What do you think happens after the end of the book? What do you hope happens?

Little Fires Everywhere - What do you think of the title and how it relates to the story? There are some connections that are obvious, some metaphoric and some that I saw based on personal feelings and the author may not have intended at all

Did you take sides in the book? There are several issues where the characters in the book took opposing sides. Did you take sides or find yourself in the middle, no good decision.


message 17: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9324 comments I felt so sad about all the broken relationships. Like Lexi and Brian. I’m even for getting the names now. Penny and Moody. I kind of hoped that the truth would come out after word about things. That even if things never really got repaired, that at least the truth was out. I was glad to see the couple from the trial get a positive resolve. I felt loss for Izzy, really for all of them. For Penny, or whatever Mia’s Daughters name was. It wasn’t Penny. She didn’t deserve to finally have her settled life ripped apart. Or to have the miscast lie foisted upon her. Mia deserved some peace to. Maybe it could’ve been a little longer and played some of that stuff out. We were sort of left with a lot of little fires.


message 18: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3673 comments I read this last year and absolutely loved it.

Before I expand on my thoughts and impressions of the book - can I post spoilers in this thread, or should I use the spoiler function and if the latter is better, can anyone explain how to use the spoiler function?

One thought I can share without spoiling is I sympathized most with Izzy and as I am reading Everything I Never Told You now, I find it interesting that both titles have an overlooked, and ignored character, someone who is taken for granted. Perhaps Celeste Ng was a middle child...??


message 19: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9324 comments Interesting thought about Celeste Ng having been a person who was overlooked or ignored. But middle child? Right now my middle child is getting so much darn attention and spotlight I fear he may never recover. Not one to slink into the shadows anyway, he easily eats up the spotlight. So you never know.


message 20: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3673 comments I guess that was a really stereotypical assumption of middle children.... probably inaccurate. In the case of both books the neglected child is the youngest also, so I have to rethink my theory!


message 21: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2097 comments Meli wrote: "I read this last year and absolutely loved it.

Before I expand on my thoughts and impressions of the book - can I post spoilers in this thread, or should I use the spoiler function and if the lat..."


Spoilers should be fine. Not much participation on here, so discuss at will.


message 22: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2097 comments Amy wrote: "I felt so sad about all the broken relationships. Like Lexi and Brian. I’m even for getting the names now. Penny and Moody. I kind of hoped that the truth would come out after word about things. Th..."

I feel the same as you. Just tell the truth, but then again, how often do we close ourselves to the truth and down allow it to be told to us as with Moody by jumping to conclusions. Or just not believing the truth will resolve anything like with Mia. Whats the point of setting the record straight. But I'm in the set the record straight crowd.


message 23: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2097 comments So, what do I think happens after the end of the book? The same thing. The Richardsons will still be closeted elitists. Mia will continue to run from the past. Pearl will still be torn between mother and fitting in. Izzy will still be Izzy. Lexi continues to be selfish and Moody continues to be moody. Feeling 100% all the time. Nothing truly changes.

The title: Burn everything down and start over. Everyone in the book did this. Izzy literally, Mia and Pearl leaving and starting over. Moody by turning on Penny. Lexi with the abortion. The family trying to adopt the baby by finding another baby. The real mother by ignoring the law and starting new somewhere else. We all start over, whether large or small. But by burning everything, nothing changes. It grows back the same. I also made a connection to the fire of passion. Everyone picks a side and is passionate about their views. They all have a fire inside of them. Mia for her child along with the mother of the baby. Mr. Richardson for her ideal of what a good life or person is. Moody and Lexi for themselves.

I couldn't take sides in the book. I felt split. Legally vs emotion vs feeling for the mother vs feeling for the baby. I wanted everyone to win, except maybe Mrs. Richardson. I felt it was a no win situation. Somebody loses and both have an argument.


message 24: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2097 comments Here is a question: Is a child's heritage as important as it is made out in the book? Would a child be missing something without a connection to her culture or would the child be fine and okay growing up American in an American household, never having a connection to her Chinese culture?


message 25: by Meli (last edited May 14, 2018 04:47AM) (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3673 comments The book does a great job of encouraging the reader to sympathize with both sides in the custody battle thread of the book, so like you Jason, I was torn, but I heavily leaned toward more sympathy for Bebe Chow.

This wasn't because I felt heritage was that important, although it is often used to argue against adoption in some cases. It reminded me of the movie Losing Isaiah which dealt with similar themes.
I think the important point is the child is taken in by a loving family. Is it hard for the parents and child, sure, but the alternative is to wait, with the risk of not getting adopted at all to be in a same race family...?? Seems antiquated.

I didn't think loss of heritage was really the point in the case of Bebe Chow versus The McCulloughs, even though it used as an argument against them.
Personally, I was more struck by how the McCulloughs felt ownership over this child so quickly. I don't necessarily believe kids should only be raised in nuclear families of parents of affluence or social standing, and that seemed to be the main argument for the McCulloughs, that they were inherently better.

Of course, we can't forget Bebe essentially got rid of her own child. As a reader, we had the privileged to understand her thought process and know she believed this to be best for the child. So, should you be able to just take a baby back? Who's to say this doesn't happen again and is that risk worth it to give Bebe another chance? Those are fair questions, but I was pretty quick to forgive Bebe of that offense, I couldn't really argue a good reason why except that I trusted recovered from that transgression.

As to the ending, I imagined Mia and Pearl went back to her hometown, reconciled with her family and reunited with the father, to whatever outcome that might have had. Rather than running again, I assumed she was going to face her secrets head on so they could finally stop running, but perhaps that was my own optimism and hope for their family.

Which raises another question... after all these years, are the original adopted parents of Pearl the rightful parents?? And how to close that chapter in their lives? For example, should they meet them, explain what happened, could there be charges against Mia, etc.?


message 26: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9324 comments It’s an interesting question Jason. I actually sided with the McCullough‘s, the adoptive parents. Because the saddest I felt for Bebe Chow, you can’t overturn an adoption. Yes the birth mother made a mistake or felt she had no other choices, but at that point her request should have been to seek some kind of open experience where she can be acknowledged as the child’s mother, not to remove the child from an adoption. That felt ridiculous to me, and against the law for a reason. Overturning an adoption is heartbreaking and it’s also illegal, because you’re not supposed to tear families apart if the birth parents change their minds. There could have been another alternative in there where the birth mother had a relationship with the child. And there didn’t need to be this awful kidnapping situation either. I didn’t think it was about her Chinese heritage, that felt off to me. Nor was it about her pop poverty or social class. What it was about was can a birth parent who leaves their child to adoption change her mind when her circumstances got better. As for Mia and pearl, that was a painful situation too. It rained very heavily on you can deny the father but not the mother. That the mother has the rights, but the father has none. Mia also made a mistake, and Maybe legally she had no right to the child she was carrying. That felt different to me, because the mistake was not giving a child up for adoption and abandoning it, it was not understanding how powerfully one would feel about one’s eggs. That’s a whole other spectrum of our world experience that calls into question donorship and surrogacy, and sperm and egg donation. It’s why they have a different donor egg than they do surrogate carrier. It’s for this reason. It would be too hard to give up a baby that was yours. Mia’s parents reactions made no sense to me either. There was such a dialectic here around parents and children. I have to go it’s 8:59. I ran out of time. More to say later.


message 27: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3673 comments I read this last year, so maybe I mis-remember, but Bebe Chow's daughter wasn't legally adopted by the McCulloughs, was she?

Chow left the baby at a fire station, and if I remember correctly someone knew the McCulloughs were struggling to have a baby and kind of allowed them to care for her in the interim, until she could be legally adopted...

I see your point though, and I am not sure those facts would change how you feel about the situation but as I mentioned, I was leaning toward sympathizing more with Chow.


message 28: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2097 comments Meli wrote: "The book does a great job of encouraging the reader to sympathize with both sides in the custody battle thread of the book, so like you Jason, I was torn, but I heavily leaned toward more sympathy ..."

Thank-you for your involvement in this discussion.

I know the heritage wasn't the main point, but its something I've heard before and I feel to be overvalued. Then again, I'm neither adopted or of a minority, so.....what do I know. That argument just got under my skin.

I am with you on Bebe and forgiving her, but the at the same time, there are consequence for every decision we make. Some good some bad and we have to live with them. In a perfect world, couldn't Bebe and the McCulloughs work out an arrangement? I feel the main argument, the McCulloughs and through proxy all her friends, didn't trust or forgive Bebe. She gave her baby away and that was all they needed to know.

So does the adoptive family have a right to Pearl? Great question. The father does because its his. Legal action and such, I have no idea. I think they could sue on multiple grounds such as personal injury, breach of contract, and custody issues.


message 29: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2097 comments Amy wrote: "It’s an interesting question Jason. I actually sided with the McCullough‘s, the adoptive parents. Because the saddest I felt for Bebe Chow, you can’t overturn an adoption. Yes the birth mother made..."

I'm with you Amy. I feel for Bebe and want her to have her baby, but there are consequence for your actions. Mistakes sucks but there are no or atleast very few mulligans.

You bring up a good point about father rights vs mother rights and what Mia did to the biological father of Pearl.

Yes, Mia's parents reaction seemed too harsh too quick. It escalated so fast.

Such an emotion splitting situation.


message 30: by Meli (last edited May 15, 2018 04:41AM) (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3673 comments Jason wrote: "Meli wrote: "The book does a great job of encouraging the reader to sympathize with both sides in the custody battle thread of the book, so like you Jason, I was torn, but I heavily leaned toward m..."

I felt like in the way the defense for Bebe used heritage, the McCulloughs equally used the nuclear family and social status as their evidence of this being the better fit for Bebe's baby. And perhaps they are right, it's something we can never know for sure. But, in my opinion, I do not believe the nuclear family is best or free from trauma, and it seemed to be a theme with the McCulloughs / Elena Richardson which I found irksome.
Both Mia and Bebe were an affront to their belief in that family structure.

I agree, there are consequences to your actions, but it was hard for me to hold to that point of view after being inside Bebe's head, which is the beauty of this book and Ng's other book. You think you understand the character's motivation and Ng turns that perspective on its head a bit.

Just finished Everything I Never Told You by Ng and it has an equally emotional impact.

Love this writer!


message 31: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9324 comments That is an interesting contrast that you present. I do think we live in a day and age where it’s not always necessary to prize a nuclear family over an alternative one. That’s why a case like this so difficult. Because of so many different aspects to consider. From responsibility and choices to sustainability to law, and maybe even heritage and culture. What I found so interesting, was that it wasn’t just about this trial. It was about mothers and daughters or mothers and children everywhere. From Mia and pearl, to a Lena and her two daughters, to Lexi and the decision around parenting. And then what do you do with an Izzy? I actually did think the book was very good. I know it had a lot of criticisms and folks who didn’t like it. But I actually did. I got very caught up in it. And read it in print!


message 32: by Kelly (new)

Kelly | 848 comments Another thing I have been thinking about with this book is Izzy and the fire. Knowing about her character and her relationship with her family do you think it was realistic for her to take the step to set it? What do you think the consequences of that would be for her in the future?


message 33: by Kelly (new)

Kelly | 848 comments Amy wrote: "That is an interesting contrast that you present. I do think we live in a day and age where it’s not always necessary to prize a nuclear family over an alternative one. That’s why a case like this ..."

I think you are right about the mothers and daughters theme including more. Also what does it take to be considered a mother.


message 34: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3673 comments Kelly wrote: "Another thing I have been thinking about with this book is Izzy and the fire. Knowing about her character and her relationship with her family do you think it was realistic for her to take the step..."

I'm glad that both you and Amy mention Izzy because she is completely overlooked / neglected in her family, and similarly in our discussion so I meant to bring it back to her...

I definitely felt that setting the fires was in character for Izzy, but didn't consider the consequences necessarily in a legal sense. I think this would have driven the wedge farther between her and family members, solidifying her status as the black sheep even more. It seemed to foster resentment in the siblings as the book came to a close.

My hope for her was that she did what made her happy despite her mother's expectations.

The pressure of external expectations of what should be and its conflict with true desire is a really strong theme in Everything I Never Told You and a character in that book is also similarly neglected, but it creates more longing in her rather than the bitterness that grew in Izzy.

Hope to get my review up sometime this week.


message 35: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9324 comments I think about Izzy, that she is characterized as someone who has good intentions, but they always come out wrong. She ends up being completely destructive for the absolute right reasons. But it’s interesting, that nobody ever asks her about that except for Mia. There’s probably some diagnostic category or disorder that this connects to, but just thinking about it, no one ever understood Izzys inner life. Except maybe for Mia, who left the beautiful memoir photographs for everyone. So no wonder Izzy felt connected to her. Where the fire is that she sat in character? Not particularly the fires, but the behavior absolutely! It could’ve been anything as her reaction. I think with all of this fighting for daughters and children, nobody ever fought for her. No one, not even Mia. She would make a very interesting therapy case. And she is one of the pains and brokenness that’s left over at the end of the book with great sorrow.


message 36: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2097 comments Was setting the fires in character for Izzy? Yes, I think so, but also knowing at the beginning of the book that she set the fires didn't make a big shocker at the end. Not sure I liked the ending first.

Legal consequences. Shes young, 15 right? Nothing major would happen most likely. Therapy (which might do the whole family good) some community service and a type of probation. (I had a friend so something similar.)

As to Izzy problem. She's angry. Shes not able to express herself because.....well shes 15. She feels so different than the rest of her family so there is inner turmoil that maybe something is wrong with her and not everyone else. She feels deeply and strongly, but all those emotions come out only as anger which leads to the not being able to express herself. There is a insecurity that comes out as smarter than thou.

Thats my take of Izzy. But I might just be projecting.


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