April 21, 2019

Little Fires Everywhere novel by Celeste Ng

Every so often, a book seems to appear on book club lists across the nation. One such novel is Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng which examines adoption, immigration, abortion, class divisions and family relationships.

Set in the affluent Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, we are introduced at the outset to the Richardson family’s tragic house fire. Ng proceeds to go back in time to recount the events leading up to the intentionally set blaze.

The Richardsons were renting a small apartment to artist Mia Warren and her teenage daughter, Pearl, mysterious recent arrivals to this privileged enclave. The four Richardson children become entwined with the Asian-American mother and daughter. Mia becomes the Richardson’s housekeeper while also juggling a waitress job and her photographic art projects. Daughter Pearl becomes embroiled with all four of the Richardson children, even having intimate relations with one of the boys.

An immigrant waitress co-worker of Mia’s named Bebe becomes involved with a wealthy couple (friends of the Richardson.) who have contentious custody of her biological daughter. Mr. Richardson is the affluent couple’s legal counsel during the resulting custody trial. Mrs. Richardson, a local journalist, begins digging into the past of both Bebe and Mia and finds some surprising parallels.

Celeste Ng has created a pot-boiler with intricate plot connections that hit many hot button topics of current day. This may not be fine literature, but it is definitely a decently written page turner. I can just imagine the little fiery discussions that this successful novel surely incites at literary gatherings everywhere.

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