Book recommendation: Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

A copy of Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng, beside a camera

This is another one of those posts that’s coming to you later than I meant it to, but means no less to me because of that. I read Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere earlier in the summer, as part of a book club. I really quite enjoyed it, and knew as soon as I started it that I would be posting a recommendation for it.

It just… took me a while to actually write that recommendation. That’s due to no fault of the book, of course. Trust me. This is definitely one you’re going to want to pick up and start reading for yourself.

Let me tell you a little more about it.

Shaker Heights is generally a calm, straightforward little suburb, where everything and everybody has its place. All of that starts to change, however, when Mia Warren and her daughter, Pearl, move to town. It starts with the mysterious Mia herself, and continues through the custody battle of a Chinese-American baby, bringing the suburb, and it’s residents, to a turning point from which it can’t come back.

As I mentioned, I was hooked on Little Fires Everywhere right from its start. Technically, it starts with the near-end of the novel, but, in this case, that works perfectly. It left me with a lot of questions that I wanted to see answered, and the only way to answer them was to keep reading.

The rest of the novel, I found, flowed really well. I enjoyed the contrast between the Warrens and the Richardsons, and found each POV interesting to follow along with. And, though I certainly wanted to know how the plot turned out, the characters themselves were what kept the novel going. They carried the book, in some ways.

So, yes, this recommendation is later than it should have been. But don’t hold that against the book; just go ahead and read it anyway.

Goodreads summary

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 alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

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