Little Fires Everywhere Book Review

 In Articles, BOOK BLOG, Book Reviews, Chick-lit, coming of age, Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Everything, NY Times Best Sellers
Little Fires Everywhere Book Cover Little Fires Everywhere
Celeste Ng
Hachette UK
September 12, 2017


From the bestselling author of EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, a riveting story that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives in Little Fires Everywhere.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

Review of Little Fires Everywhere

Hulu subscribers and Reese Witherspoon fans probably already know that the book, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is now a hit show. While I haven’t finished the series (because they haven’t all aired), I’ve seen enough to begin the conversation about how it stands up. And since I haven’t yet reviewed this novel (or any for a while) this just felt like the perfect place to begin.

First, I want to start by saying to all hospital care workers, THANK YOU!! And all of our current articles and reviews are written for the people who are staying home, so you can stay safe. 

Let me be honest up front, I would have loved this book — five-star head-over-heels loved — if it hadn’t started with the conclusion. It’s that impactful first scene that makes you say, Holy sh*t this is gonna be good. But that only works if there is an oh snap! moment at the conclusion. But in Little Fires Everywhere that just didn’t ring true… at least for me. Read it and make your own decision.

“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.” ― Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere
The book takes place in the nineties (an era that touches this gen X’er at her core) and digs deep into the lives of two families by portraying their socioeconomic contrasts. A clash of the classes set in the pristine and mostly White-wealthy suburban community in Ohio. The Warren family is poor, mostly by choice, while the Richardson’s are wealthy, mostly by birthright. The author, having grown up in this affluent area, really pinpoints the exclusivity and core beliefs of the Shaker Heights bubble and a battle within to become “woke” while not giving up their status quo.

It’s most evident between the two families at the heart of this story. The differences in how these families fight, love, laugh and politic play in stark contrast to one another. 

One family’s controlling matriarch rules a coordinated roost. Married to an overworked lawyer, she has three kids that she desperately wants to control, but can’t. The other family consists of a single mother struggling to live the life of a free-willed artist while battling with the need to appease a daughter begging for normalcy. When these two opposing, strong female protagonist/antagonist personalities intersect, it leads the reader down a windy road of heartbreak.

Questions about race and poverty, versus wealth and feigned stability take the narrative to deep and heady places. So much so that the storylines had me questioning my perspective and with what lens I’m truly seeing things through. I also found myself thinking about the story long after I had put it down, itching to return to the story, to the characters. And in the end, isn’t that what the reading journey is all about?

Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington

The show also titled Little Fires Everywhere, which airs on Hulu, takes the story a step farther. Not just being a book about class structures and how they don’t play well together, but it throws race into the forefront. At first, and I’m not gonna lie, I was upset because the narrative had a much different tone than the book, at least in my interpretation. But then I realized that bringing the racial inequities to the forefront shined a vivid light on the class structure in a connective way.

Racial and class inequities are often intrinsic and the way they play on-screen unmasks the ugliness of privilege brilliantly. Contrary to my initial bias toward the original story, it was a good move. The lens is the same, it’s just more glaring. I also didn’t like how they made Kerry Washington’s, Mia immediately distrustful and angry, but then I had to pivot because this character had a host of different issues because she was also a person of color and again, it works.

There are also several other small differences, like adding the father into the storyline more and making him, at least in the shows infancy, drawn to Mia sexually. The building tension I caught in just the first few episodes had me intrigued, especially because I’m a fan of the actor, Joshua Jackson, who plays Mr. Richardson. But I will reserve full judgment until the season has ended and I revist this review. 

Am I going to continue on this Hulu journey with two sets of messed up families? Absolutely! Do I recommend this book to those looking for a well-written story that will be an easy read with an accompanying show? Definitely. 

Happy reading and remember to stay in and stay safe, if not for yourself, do it for everyone else!


Sara O'Connor
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