Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng

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 principal 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.

I picked up Celeste Ng's debut novel, 'Everything I Never Told You',  and absolutely adored it so when I started seeing all the buzz for Little Fires Everywhere I knew I had to read it. It's contemporary fiction which is not normally my everyday read but there's something so delightful about Ng's writing that I seem to be consumed by her work.

Little Fires Everywhere is a masterpiece about families, ones with fathers, ones without, adoption, and the relationships between the members of these families. The Richardson family are long established in Shaker Heights so when Mia Warren, an artist, and her daughter Pearl roll into town, Elena Richardson is only too pleased to be seen to be doing something for a poor, starving artist and rents them her upstairs apartment. Elena has four children, Trip, Lexie, Moody, and Izzy, and has an easygoing relationship with all of them except Izzy. Izzy is her problem child, the one she spends her time being completely exasperated with. But is this because Izzy is the problem child? Or is it because Mrs. Richardson fears she will lose Izzy and finds it easier to push her away?

When Moody strikes up a friendship with Pearl, Elena is secretly pleased that Izzy then seems to take a shine to Mia and in that way that happens with intense friendships, Pearl starts spending most of her time with the Richardsons, and Izzy starts spending time with Mia, wishing that Mia were her mother.

It's these intense relationships that make Celeste Ng's novels. The pace is slow and delicious, an impressive example of a character-driven novel. Nothing much may happen in Little Fires Everywhere but it doesn't need to, you lose yourself entirely in all the character's stories. Both principal and secondary characters have their stories told, all perfectly interwoven, telling the tale of what happened to each and every one of them to get them where they are today. The driving point of the start of the breakdown of these relationships is a court case over custody of a baby, adopted by friends of the Richardson but whose birth mother is a friend of Mia's.

These characters are not perfect, they all have their flaws but they are perfection to read about. By the end of the story they have all been through something and some, if not all, take a long look at both their lives and their behaviour. Apparently, Reece Witherspoon has bought the rights to Little Fires Everywhere and I can see why. I'm not normally a fan of books-to-tv/movie adaptations but I'm looking forward to seeing these characters on the small screen. This is one book that will stay with me for a long time as I loved it even more than Everything I Never Told You, and I am now eagerly waiting to see what comes next for Celeste Ng.

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng
ISBN - 9781408709719
Publisher - Little Brown
Release Date - November 9th, 2017

About The Author

Celeste Ng is the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You, which was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 2014, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and named a 'best book of the year' by over a dozen publications. Everything I Never Told You was also the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the ALA’s Alex Award, and the Medici Book Club Prize, and was a finalist for numerous awards, including the Ohioana Award, the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award, and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award.

Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize.

Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Huge thanks to both Grace Vincent and Little, Brown for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and a copy of one of the best books I've read this year. Please do check out all the other bloggers taking part on the tour which runs until November 14th. Links can be found on the LB Twitter account, @LittleBrownUK.

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