Little Fires Everywhereby Published 12 Sep 2017
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Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to 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, 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 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 mysterious past, and 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. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, 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.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.
Little Fires Everywhere Reviews
Metaphorically speaking, everyone has 'little fires' in their lives - events that begin as a small spark, and have the ability to transform into a raging inferno, changing lives for ever.
Shaker Heights, Cleveland is an idyllic place to live, everything has been planned to create the perfect community, but it's residents are expected to live by its many rules and regulations.
The Richardson's are quintessentially the kind of family who the community of Shaker Heights was built for. Elena Richardson was brought up with these rules, and she and her husband are determined that their four children, Lexie, Trip, Moody and Izzy will live by them too. Izzy isn't exactly a chip off the old block though, and will prove to be very disruptive.
The Richardson's rent out an apartment to people they feel need a helping hand, and their latest tenants are Mia and her daughter Pearl. Mia is a free spirit, an artist specialising in photography, and when Elena’s troublesome daughter Izzy becomes close to Mia, Elena finds that she's jealous of the relationship, a relationship that doesn't exist between her and Izzy. Further to this, an adoption case in the community puts Elena and Mia on opposing sides, and Elena decides to do some digging on Mia’s past, and uproots some secrets that will change everything.
Oh gosh, this book explores so many issues, but for me the one that stood out was motherhood, and in particular, the relationship between mothers and daughters, from baby's early days to teenage angst.
It was beautifully written, with characters so well developed I felt as if I knew them personally. I also liked the setting of Shaker Heights, a place so perfect and orderly, and yet, ultimately there is always someone who will rip up those precious rules and regulations and throw them in the garbage.
Celeste Ng writes with great insight and empathy, and leaves the reader with much to think about.
*Thank you to Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group for my ARC in exchange for an honest review*
I wouldn't even know where to begin to try and review this one. Holy fuck.
I pre-ordered this book months ago. It arrived at 12:01am today. I've been reading non - stop.... a one- sitting read with a few necessity breaks.
Here's is my problem....
I feel as if I've read this story before. I was only mildly interested in many scenes.
There were parts I found trite and parts I found semi boring.
Personally - I found the characters to be very one dimensional.
Here's another problem I have:
Yesterday I finished reading "In The Fall They Come Back", by Robert Bausch. I saw a lot of similarities in these two books, but this novel didn't 'wow' me nearly as much.
This story 'seemed' like it had all the elements I usually love .....
The wealthy and thrifty battle it out...plus moral issues to think about ...but my heart wasn't always in it. Not sure why. It could be me.
For one thing..... I spent summers in Shaker Heights .... I felt this book could have been written anywhere. Plus.... I'm not sure I appreciated some of the stereotyping of this community.
BUT ....here's a small flavor of the characters you'll spend time with:
'The Richardson's family':
Bill is an attorney and drives a BMW Sedan
Elena is a wife & mom..... works for the local newspaper: 'Sun Press'. She drives a Lexus
THE FOUR SIBLINGS:
Lexie -senior drives an explorer- has the lead in her School play. Seems fruity & shallow at times - but is an excellent student
Trip - a junior - drives a jeep - loves sports - handsome -fit --and charming
Moody - sophomore- rides a bike ( bless him) - most compassionate- very bright -introspective
Izzy - Freshman- considered black sheep of the bunch - feels different than others in her family.
'The Warren's: They recently moved into a rental ( a duplex) that the Richardsons own.
Mia- 36 years old, single mom, artist. Mia drives a VW Rabbit. She would rather mop floors any day- quietly alone- than have to wait on customers.
Pearl -15 years old - Mia's daughter - shy - honors student -
Paul, my husband, is rushing me - he says RETIRE.... lol.....
So.....I LIKED IT.....but..... after several great books I've recently read, I can't say I'm 'wild' about it. It was ok!!! - alright - better than OK!
Worth reading! Others may love it!
If this book does not get your brain churning, well, then you did not read the same book I just did!
This book is filled with so many scenarios with so many questions and no perfect answers. Every situation is a little pile of kindling and any of the questionable solutions will only ignite the fire . . . soon you have a bunch of fires ready to burn everything to the ground. Man, that would be a great title for this book! Oh . . . wait . . .
It has been a long time since I remember reading a book where my mind and problem solving skills have been this challenged. Usually when you are reading you think, "well, the best route for them to follow is this" or "Geez, it's obvious that they should never have done that." In this book I just kept thinking, "I am glad I am not the one who has to make any of these decisions!"
Also, this book is full of so many misunderstandings. I get frustrated when someone is falsely accused or the wrong conclusion is assumed. Every 15 minutes I found myself yelling at this book!
"IT WASN'T HER!"
"NO, THAT'S NOT WHAT HAPPENED! SOMEONE SPEAK UP!"
"OH, THIS ISN'T GOING TO END WELL!"
I believe I have said it before, but any time a book has you engaged so much you yell at it, want to pull the characters out of the pages and shake them, and/or need a stiff drink to calm your nerves at the end of each chapter, you are reading a pretty darn good book.
Give your analytical side a gift and read this book - it would be a great one for a book club. I imagine it would certainly lead to some lively discussion!
All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control.
4 1/2 stars. You should go into this book expecting what it is: a slow-moving character portrait filled with complex family dynamics and small-town politics. If you know what this is, like with Ng's Everything I Never Told You, and don't go into it expecting fast-pacing and high-octane drama, you will probably find this quiet read to be extremely engrossing and emotional.
I have to be in the mood for this kind of read, but when I am, it packs a powerful punch. These characters are so vivid, so real, so caught up in the little fires of everyday life in Shaker Heights. There's several stories going on in here, but the book begins with literal fires lighting up the Richardson household and the knowledge that the youngest daughter, Izzy, the wild card, has disappeared. Presumably because she is guilty of the arson.
Then we move back from there. We start to get a portrait of the events leading up to this dramatic fire. We see the poor artist, Mia, and her daughter, Pearl, move into town and the effect they have on all members of the Richardson family. Further back, we get the past stories of almost every character who comes into this book. It is such a rich work in which the personal stories and experiences of secondary characters play a huge part in influencing how events unfold.
And, behind it all, is a court case that will affect all the characters lives. A custody battle over a Chinese baby who could be given every toy, every desire, every opportunity by her rich and white adoptive parents - but is that all? Is that enough when her poor birth mother is ready and willing to care for her? Things become very tense. The town becomes divided. And I felt an emotional wreck by the end of it, too.
Mrs. Richardson, however, could not let Izzy be, and the feeling coalesced in all of them: Izzy pushing, her mother restraining, and after a time no one could remember how the dynamic had started, only that it had existed always.
The Richardson family, along with Mia and Pearl, Bebe, and the McCulloughs, all pulled me into their lives. I despised a character at one point, only to find pity for them a couple of chapters later. The relationship between Izzy and her mother was a real point of interest for me. How Mrs. Richardson's fears about Izzy affected her behaviour toward her, which in turn affected how Izzy behaved. All leading to the ultimate question: was Izzy always what Mrs. Richardson feared she was? Or did Mrs. Richardson create what she most feared through her treatment of Izzy?
Little Fires Everywhere is a great example of how small character dynamics can create a powerful and fascinating story. I love the empathy the author shows for all the people in this book - even the manipulative, morally corrupt and undeserving. No one is merely good or bad. And that is what makes the book so effective. Whose side am I on? I'll let you know if I ever figure it out.
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