Reviewing Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere

Blog tour alert! To celebrate the release of Celeste Ng’s new book Little Fires Everywhere I am part of the blog tour arranged by the publishers, Little Brown. I have read the book, loved the book and reviewed it below.

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.

I think I went into this book expecting something other than what it is: a slow-paced, engrossing character study. I think I went in thinking it would be full of action and adventure with actual little fires all over the place (!) – I think I expected a crime book starring an arsonist. I am trying to always go into books with an open mind and no preconceived notions but this this one I failed. Which is why when I started I had no idea what was happening or why it wasn’t moving as quick as I expected.

And then I stopped trying to make Little Fires Everywhere fit my idea of it, and just started to read it – and enjoy it – as it was. Small town politics, secrets, emotional turmoil, and lives with so many cracks and flaws. This book had it all and when I let go of expecting explosions and high-octane thrills (and spills) I found myself completely hooked.

At the very centre of Little Fires Everywhere there are mothers and their children and the notion of trying to be perfect. I have never read anything by Celete Ng before (apparently this is terrible on my part and I will be rectifying this soon) and I did not expect such tender writing, such emotional development, and characters which stayed with me.

Mia and Mrs Richardson are different women, both trying to be perfect for their children. When a custody battle sets the town alight they find themselves on opposite ends of the debate. Their children on the other hand have their own connections with each other and their own little fires burning. Celeste Ng makes is so clear how different these women are from the little things they do an the way the behave. But I never felt their difference being slapped in my face – it was more clever and subtle than that.

As I said this was a story that was vastly different than I thought it would be but by the end it had morphed into something different still. As had my own thoughts and feelings towards it. I think this is a beautiful book, one I found so difficult to put down, and I thank the publishers for sending me a review copy and letting me be part of the blog tour.

The publishers have arranged for some truly amazing bloggers to be part of the Little Fires Everywhere blog tour (it is vein or confident of me to be thrilled that I am part of the list?) and these are just the people involved today:

The tour is lasting until Tuesday the 14th and do check out some of the other bloggers!

Disclaimer: I was sent this book for free as part of the blog tour. This has not influenced my review at all. 

Leave a Reply