I’m late to the party, since it came out in 2017, but I recently finished reading Little Fires Everywhere. It was an impulse buy at the airport newsstand, but it turned out to be the right decision. It took me through two plane rides and a long beach day. A sign of a good vacation read.
Celeste Ng’s novel, set in the late 1990s (a favorite time period of mine), focuses on two families in the idyllic community of Shaker Heights, Ohio. Elena is the head of the wealthy Richardsons, which includes her lawyer husband Bill, outgoing older kids Lexie and Trip, aptly named son Moody, and rebellious daughter Izzy. Their lives are shaken up by the arrival of Mia Warren and her teenage daughter. Mia normally lives a nomadic life, shuttling shy (yet blossoming) Pearl across the country. But they decide to settle in Shaker Heights and into the Richardson’s rental home.
The story follows the families as their lives become intertwined. New relationships form and several lives are changed. Elena and Mia represent the main source of conflict. Mrs. Richardson is the definition of type A, steamrolling anyone and anything that doesn’t fit into her perfect world. While Mia is more earthy and free. She has no use for Elena’s rules. They cannot, or choose not to, understand each other. Along with this drama, a custody battle ignites between an adopting couple and the birth mother of a Chinese-American baby. It causes a divide among the residents of the town, especially between the Richardson and Warren matriarchs.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Ng creates a complex world in this supposedly Utopian town. There’s so much going on below the surface. Characters that could be one note are given multiple layers and intricacies that make them much more interesting. And, I was eager to find out where they ended up by the last page. The book is set to become a limited series on Hulu, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Great casting, by the way. I look forward to seeing how the adaptation compares to the original source and if the series finds even more depths in Ng’s work.