I was really excited when I saw this book on a “highly anticipated reads” list earlier this year (which one, I can’t remember but I always read those articles when I see them). I was a big fan of Ng’s first book, Everything I Never Told You and had high expectations for Little Fires Everywhere – it delivered. I really liked some of the characters while also disliking others and I could say that I liked the good guys and disliked the bad but the characters weren’t that simple and their stories weren’t either.
Little Fires Everywhere takes place in Shaker Heights, which is described in the book’s summary as “a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned” and Ng explains how the town was well planned – from the roads to the buildings to the colours the residents could use on their houses. Elena Richardson, who was born and raised in Shaker Heights, is very similar in nature to the town she lives in. She is a reporter for the local paper, got married after school, had four children – you can almost imagine her white picket fence. She rents an apartment to Mia Warren, who has arrived in Shaker Heights with her teenage daughter, Pearl.
Mia is an artist and she and Pearl move around often, moving from place to place after Mia finishes art projects. Mia is Elena’s opposite – mysterious, unconcerned about what others might think of her and of course, this makes her more fascinating. She has promised Pearl they will stay in Shaker Heights and Pearl becomes friends with Moody Richardson and his two older siblings – Lexie and Trip. She is embraced by the Richardson family and for the first time in her life, is experiencing a very different life than the one she has known with her mother for her entire life. While Pearl gets close to the Richardsons, Elena’s youngest daughter, Izzy, gets close to Mia as she begins to help her with her latest art project each day after school.
A custody battle between friends of Elena’s and a friend of Mia’s puts the two of them (and the entire town) on opposite sides of the issue and Elena uses her reporter role to dig into Mia’s past, to uncover the secrets Mia has held close since Pearl’s birth. And as Mia’s past is revealed through the story, I found myself more and more engrossed in the book and the more I read, the more I knew I had to finish the book (admittedly, late into the night).
It was a great examination of what makes a family, how a family comes together, the relationships parents have with their children – particularly, the relationships mothers and daughters have and this is seen looking at both Mia and Pearl’s relationship but also though the very different relationships Elena has with her two daughters, Lexie and her youngest, Izzy. And of course, the secrets people keep and what can happen when they are uncovered.
The story is told from multiple characters perspectives which made me care more about them. I felt invested in what Pearl did, how Moody felt, what was driving Izzy and of course, just what Mia’s past was made up of. And while somewhat frustrating, I found myself wondering just what would happen to each of them at the end of the book. That’s how I know I’m invested – where do they all go from here!?!
Enjoy this beautiful read and be sure to check out Everything I Never Told You too if you haven’t had a chance to read it!