Rummanah Aasi

Description: 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.

Review: In Ng's sophomore novel, Little Fires Everywhere, she returns with her critical eyes on suburbia, privilege, and motherhood. The opening chapter opens up with the burning of a home of an seemingly perfect family in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Shaker Heights is an idyllic suburb where residents are happy with the status quo and are resistant to change. Unwelcome change comes barreling into the Richardson family when Mia, a boho, charismatic, and mysterious artist moves in with her teenage daughter Pearl become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents.
  Mia and Pearl live a very different life from the Richardson family. Unlike the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four teen children who live in a big house with white picket fences, Mia is an artist who makes enough money for them to get by and are constantly on the move whenever inspiration hits Mia for a new art project. With the juxtaposition of these two families, we get to see how class and money affects them as well as the mother-child relationships, especially as Mia and Pearl intertwine their lives with the Richards, albeit Mia reluctantly and Pearl eagerly. 
  The book is quite quiet as we observe how these characters interact with one another. It is told through various points of views and it takes it time slowly developing the different bonds between the characters. I really appreciated how the teens and adults are both given enough page time and attention. Many times in adult fiction the children are brushed aside, but they are really important to the story. I liked Pearl for the most part as the everyday girl. I could understand how she wanted to mimic her lifestyle to that of the glamorous neighbors, but I also wished that she had her own personality. Out of the Richardsons, I felt most connected to Moody, the middle child who was reserved and kept his feelings towards Pearl to himself mostly. I also liked Izzy for her tenacity and determination to always stand up for what she believed in but at times she was a bit much.
  The book's pacing picks up when "little fires" are sparked and set fire to the Richardsons'  secure, stable world and how they do or do not adjust their worldviews. A particular fire is when Shaker Heights is the center for a public, legal custody case of a Chinese American Baby. Overall, Little Fires Everywhere is enjoyable and insightful read. It would make a good book club pick as there are plenty of themes to discuss such as loyalty and betrayal, honesty and trust, and what does motherhood mean.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, fade to black sex scenes, teen abortion, and underage drinking discussed in the book. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran, Night Road by Kristin Hannah
4 Responses
  1. A lot of people are reading and liking this one, but for some reason I keep not feeling "grabbed" by it. I should just get it and read it.

  2. I usually gravitate toward books that have an art theme to it and I've been curious about this one. Sounds like I would enjoy it overall and I may have to bug the library to get it! :)

  3. danya Says:

    I've been curious about this one, so I'm glad to see it gets your seal of approval! I liked the writing style and thought-provoking themes of her first novel. How would you say this one compares to Everything I Never Told You?

  4. I think I wil recommend this one for book club on your recommendation.

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