Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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Happy 2020! 

Last year one of my “resolutions”, and I hate deeming anything as a resolution, was to read more books. I had a goal of one book a month. That may seem like a lot, but I reached it for the most part. I’m not perfect and there were months that I didn’t read but in 2019 I was able to read quite a few books, I should add up how many. I still need to write about books I read, so more will be coming.

This month, I started “Little Fires Everywhere”, I had waited 12+ weeks for my digital copy and physical copy to be ready from the library, and I was excited to read it. I waited a long time, and I’m NOT a patient person! It has gotten a lot of attention being on the NYT Best seller list for 36 weeks (and still is as I write this), plus it is airing as a Hulu original on March 18th! Needless to say, I was ready to see what this was all about.

Short version- I’d recommend this book, it was a really good read. Read below if you’re curious!

Little Fires Everywhere introduces you to characters of different race and culture, it forces you to think about how those factors may or may not influence your life, more so than any “choice” you may make.

There are so many themes in this book: dealing with death, women’s rights, infertility, and how our “choices” shape our future, even ones that weren’t expected choices.

Taking place in the 1990’s in an idyllic setting of Shaker Heights, an affluent community in Cleveland Ohio, you soon see that even though a community may appear “perfect” the people who live in it are not as they seem.

No one, no matter their upbringing, where they went to college, their job, where they were born, or even their address makes them immune from life’s hardships. You are bound to see yourself, and your story in one or more of these characters; making it hit home.

The book makes this abundantly clear when the opening pages start out with a fire, that shakes the Richardson family who has deep Shaker Heights roots to its core.  Their house is on fire, things like this don’t happen in their neighborhood. So what happened??

The story follows the Richardson family, and the Warren family who became tenants in one of their houses. Their life is forever changed as mother/daughter duo Mia and Pearl Warren come to Shaker Heights to “stay for good”.

Living a life where they never stayed put for long, they arrived in Shaker Heights and Peal was promised by her mother that this was it. So Pearl found community within the Richardson family.  She is good friends with one of the sons, Moody. Pearl also builds a strong friendship with the Richardson’s youngest daughter Izzy, and with the other two siblings Lexie and Trip in less conventional ways (without giving away any spoilers).

You read about Mia and her story being a single mother, struggling to make ends meet, as an artist. I empathized with her motivation that moves her on to keep providing for Pearl, but shockingly her story is anything but conventional. Mia and her path toward motherhood is so controversial it makes you ponder the question if being a mother is defined by how well you can provide or based on the principal that life was given. 

This theme reverberates throughout the rest of the story. It is so interesting because you may THINK you know the answer to this question, but things are always more complex than they seem. As you peel back the layers of the story, you are faced with the question if financial stability outweighs love, if DNA outweighs the ability to provide, and if second chances are always granted. Does one trump the other? The answer isn’t as black and white as you’d think when you’re looking at it from several viewpoints.

Two other women’s stories intersect into the plot, that will have you wondering whether someone’s struggles give them the right at a second chance when it comes to the well-being of an abandoned child. If that second chance is outweighed by someones ability to provide for and love a child that was abandoned. It’s safe to say you’d would never dream of being in a situation where leaving their baby at a fire-station seemed like the last option for survival. You may think you know how you feel about this but as you read the stories of very different women, both wanting to love the same baby you may change your mind.

The children of the Richardson family are so intertwined with the Warren women, with Mia helping in their home, and with Pearl practically being apart of the Richardson family. Things get complex and we can see how these teenagers are faced with real adult issues, and how it can change their lives in an instant.

All of them are impacted, and in the end, you see that their lives filled with perfectly planned communities, pristine lawns, elaborate homes and luxury leaving them detached from struggle doesn’t isolate them from it. It’s right there just the same as someone scrambling to pay rent, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, or in their car. We are all faced with things we can’t escape.

There are so many ironic twists in this story, without spoiling how it unfolds, you come to see that people are less different than you’d assume from the outside. We are all dealing with fires in our lives, and fires from our past that we still carry with us.

My heart broke for so many of the themes in this book, and this was one of my favorite quotes that accurately sums up this book.

“It seems like the end of the world. The earth is all scorched and black and everything green is gone. But after the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. ‘People are like that too, you know. They start over. They find a way.'” 

People get through things because they have to. Little Fires Everywhere shines a light on the fires in our lives, and how we find the will to survive, and sometimes that means burning it all to the ground, and starting over. Even in our worst moments, growth happens after the fire is over; if you survive the burn.

-Hannah (1)

If you read this or plan to, leave a comment below telling me about it!

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