Activist and writer Larry Kramer passed away yesterday at 84. Over the years, his writing was critically acclaimed and won many awards. But he’ll be remembered most for his unbridled activism. Kramer was on the frontlines when the AIDS epidemic began in the 1980s. He helped to form the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and later the more militant ACT UP. His approach was usually abrasive and confrontational. However, that anger was necessary in order to get people in power to implement changes. I enjoyed Kramer’s book Faggots and was moved by his play TheNormalHeart. I’m also very thankful for the battle he fought and the lives that it saved.
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.