Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng- An unflinching examination of family, community and society

Thanks to Little Brown UK and NetGalley for the review copy.

This book was another recommended by John Green and after reading the synopsis I wasn’t sure it was going to be for me, but I’m glad I went for it because it is incredible!

We join the Richardsons on the morning after Izzy, the youngest daughter and oddball of the family sets fire to their home and promptly disappears. Shaker Heights is left bewildered as to what could have made Izzy do such a thing. After all, in a place of such order and comfort, what could motivate such reckless action? Little Fires Everywhere follows the events leading up to the fire, starting with the arrival of the restless artist Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl. Mrs Richardson, a morally upright servant of the community, sees potential in Mia and happily rents out their second home to her, quickly followed by an offer of a job as their housekeeper. The Warrens and the Richardsons soon become as close as if they were one family, but when Mia makes a decision that disturbs the peace of the perfect town, Mrs Richardson is determined that there will be consequences. What she doesn’t realise is that those consequences will reach far further than Mia’s doorstep.

What stood out for me most about this book is that it shines a light on the way suburban, white, middle-class, Democrat voting America really thinks. They might have four cars, two houses and a holiday home, but they’re not so different from everyone else. They give to charity, pay taxes and help out the less fortunate when they can, so that’s fair, right?! There’s no need to get involved in any radical politics or protest, no, it’s much better to keep calm and orderly. If anyone happens to disrupt that order, then heaven help them! The portrayal was eye-opening and fascinating. It does an expert job of examining how race, class and gender actually function in the small inter-personal narratives of family and community life. It raises issues that most of us would rather not think about and asks lots of important questions.

At the same time, it’s like a soap opera! There are lots of intricate intertwining stories and many cliffhangers to keep shocking the reader. The descriptions are vivid and the world is truly immersive. I was hooked throughout. It’s not specifically a young adult story, but it could be. Ample time is devoted to the teenagers of the novel and their issues are dealt with truthfully and sensitively.

The only thing stopping me from giving a perfect 10 is that I found parts of the ending a little unbelievable. It’s like the author went out of her way to give the reader the ending they wanted, rather than a realistic one, and it felt a bit jarring.

However, even that doesn’t take much away from this truly outstanding novel. It is unafraid, timely and so so necessary. Anyone with even the vaguest interest in the social order and how we interact with each other should not hesitate to pick up this book.

9.5/10

Little Fires Everywhere is out now.

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