Little Fires Everywhere is coming soon to TV - and what a drama it will be!
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Genre: General Fiction
Published 2017, 336 pages
This story has it all: lies, secrets, young love, free spirits and straight-laced rule followers, a rebel and one who just wants to fit in. It's a character driven novel about motherhood, family, choices (sometimes hard ones) and running from your past and facing your future, and finally, the devastating results of misunderstandings and miscommunication.
I wanted to read this before seeing the screen adaptation because books are almost always better than the screen version. After seeing it all over Instagram for the last couple years, I figured it was past time to pick it up. The premise is intriguing and layered. Artist Mia and her teenage daughter, Pearl, rent an apartment from the very straight-laced, rule-following Elena Richardson in a high-end planned community in suburban Cleveland. They've lived a nomadic life but are ready to settle down so Pearl can go to one high school.
"Since Pearl had been born they'd lived, by Mia's count, in forty-six different towns, keeping their possessions to what would fit in a Volkswagen - in other words, to a bare minimum."
Elena Richardson is almost a Stepford-type woman and on the surface is a boring, cookie cutter of a wife/mother - but like every character in this story, there are layers.
"She had a plan, from girlhood on, and had followed it scrupulously: high school, college, boyfriend, marriage, job, mortgage, children. A sedan with air bags and automatic seat belts. A lawn mower and a snowblower. A matching washer and dryer. She had, in short, done everything right and had built a good life, the kind of life she wanted, the kind of life everyone wanted. Now here was this Mia, a completely different kind of woman leading a completely different life, who seemed to make her own rules with no apologies."
When Pearl starts school, she's befriended by Moody, one of the four Richardson kids and quickly is accepted into their family circle. As friendships evolve and emotions ebb and flow between the characters, Ng very slowly but carefully sets up the core issue that divides the neighborhood, friends, and families: a childless couple is trying to adopt a Chinese baby but when the biological mother shows up and wants her child back, everyone picks sides and trouble ensues. This thorny issue is presented from various perspectives giving the reader lots to think about. Just when you think you know how you'd react, there's new information, a new twist. I could feel the disaster coming, I just didn't know how it would manifest. And it's harsh and difficult and ..... worth reading to make your own determination.
This reminded me a bit of a Jodi Picoult story - she's famous for picking difficult situations and presenting all sides of the problem. I love this type of fiction - it makes me think and wonder what I'd do in the same circumstances. If your book club hasn't read this yet, I'd highly recommend putting it on your radar. There's SO much to talk about!
photos by Terrie Purkey