*Just a little note: this book may include spoilers*
In most of my book reviews so far, I’ve said that I’ve seen this book everywhere. This book is literally on fire everywhere. It’s a book, it seems, that has captured the reader’s hearts. So, what’s the book about? I’ve tried to find the words but whatever I come up with, it seems that it doesn’t do the story justice. So, this is what the blurb says:
In the placid, progressive suburb of Shaker Heights everything is meticulously planned, from 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.
Mia Warren, an enigmatic artist and single mother, 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 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. 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.
I’ll be honest and admit that it did take me a while to get into the story and to get properly engaged with the book. But I think that is down to Ng introducing us to the characters and the dynamics/relationships between them all. But then, once the custody story, it really kicks up a notch and you really start to get involved in the book and you will be up all night reading. Celeste has a really accomplished writing style, it’s beautiful and lyrical. She writes so descriptively that you are in this world of the characters; you can smell the smoke of the fire, you can hear the cries from Bebe, you can hear Mrs Richardson type away on her computer.
When reading this book, there were a number of quotes that I loved that I bookmarked – something that I don’t normally do with books. For example, a quote that sums up the book for me is: “It came, over and over, down to this: What made someone a mother? Was it biology alone, or was it love?”. This quote is not only about Bebe and Mrs McCullough of course – it’s about Mia, Mrs Richardson and Lexie too.
One of my favourite aspects of the book is the flawed characters. My favourite characters were Elena (Mrs Richardson) and Mia. Part of me thought that there was a bit too much focus on the teenagers and found it a bit unnecessary at times. The majority of my favourite scenes were Elena trying to find out the truth of Mia’s past. I really enjoyed the flashbacks of Mia too as we found out about her past, too. This was the chance where we got to know Mia a lot more and find out a lot more about her. I really enjoyed the scenes with her brother, especially. It gives the reader an understanding of why Mia is who she is and why she goes from one place to the other. I think one of the main reasons why I enjoyed the scenes of Elena obsessing over Mia’s past is because it showed a lot about Elena’s character. Within the perfect Shaker Heights and her ‘perfect’ life, I think Elena was attracted to Mia’s sense of freedom.
Another issue for me with the book is that I felt the ending was rushed slightly, especially the character Izzy. Part of me thinks this is the point of it, that Ng is using Izzy as a literal ‘little fire’ in the book and in the end, she is burning brightly. But for me, I just wanted to see more of Izzy and her development so in the end, I would have more investment with Izzy as a character and her story.
I really enjoyed this book and I understand why people are talking about it constantly. Ng writes in an accomplished way and has such beautiful descriptive writing. It makes you think, as Ng doesn’t give one complete answer to you, it makes you think about your own opinions on the subject matter. I loved the flawed characters and the message throughout. This book is literally setting little fires everywhere.
To round up this review, I’m going to include one of my other favourite quotes:
She thought, as she would often for many years, of the photograph from that day, with the one golden feather inside it: Was it a portrait of her, or her daughter? Was she the bird trying to batter its way free, or was she the cage?
What do you think? Have you read Little Fires Everywhere? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!