Excerpt from Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Little Fires Everywhere

by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng X
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2017, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2019, 368 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Erin Szczechowski
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Excerpt
Little Fires Everywhere

The orchestra teacher, Mrs. Peters, was widely disliked by everyone. She was a tall, painfully thin woman with hair dyed an unnatural flaxen and cropped in a manner reminiscent of Dorothy Hamill. According to Izzy, she was useless as a conductor and everyone knew to just watch Kerri Schulman, the first-chair violin, for the tempo. A persistent rumor—after some years, calcified as fact—insisted that Mrs. Peters had a drinking problem. Izzy hadn't entirely believed it, until Mrs. Peters had borrowed her violin one morning to demonstrate a bowing; when she'd handed it back, the chin rest damp with sweat, it had smelled unmistakably of whiskey. When she brought her big camping thermos of coffee, people said, you knew Mrs. Peters had been on a bender the night before. Moreover, she was often bitingly sarcastic, especially to the second violins, especially the ones who—as one of the cellos put it drily—were "pigmentally blessed."

Izzy, who had been playing violin since she was four, and had been assigned second chair even though she was a freshman, should have had nothing to fear. "You'll be fine," the cello had told her, eyeing Izzy's frizzy golden hair—the dandelion fro, Lexie liked to call it. Had Izzy kept her head down, Mrs. Peters would likely have ignored her. But Izzy was not the type to keep her head down.

The morning of her suspension, Izzy had been in her seat, practicing a tricky fingering on the E string for the Saint-Saëns piece she'd been working on in her private lessons. Around her the hum of violas and cellos tuning up grew quiet as Mrs. Peters stormed in, thermos in hand. It was clear from the start that she was in an extraordinarily foul mood. "Hangover," Kerri Schulman mouthed to Izzy, who nodded gravely. She had only a general sense of what this meant.

At the podium, Mrs. Peters took a long swig from her mug of coffee. "Offenbach," she barked, raising her right hand. Around the room students riffled through their sheet music. Twelve bars into Orpheus, Mrs. Peters waved her arms. "Someone's off." She pointed her bow at Deja Johnson, who was at the back of the second violins. "Deja. Play from measure six."

Deja, who everyone knew was painfully shy, glanced up with the look of a frightened rabbit. She began to play, and everyone could hear the slight tremor from her shaking hand. Mrs. Peters shook her head and rapped her bow on her stand. "Wrong bowing. Down, up-up, down, up. Again." Deja stumbled through the piece again. The room simmered with resentment, but no one said anything.

Mrs. Peters took a long slurp of coffee. "Stand up, Deja. Nice and loud now, so everyone can hear what they're not supposed to be doing." The edges of Deja's mouth wobbled, as if she were going to cry, but she set her bow to string and began once more. Mrs. Peters shook her head again, her voice shrill over the single violin. "Deja. Down, up-up, down, up. Did you not understand me? You need me to speak in Ebonics?"

It was at this point that Izzy had jumped from her seat and grabbed Mrs. Peters's bow.

She could not say, even when telling Mia the story, why she had reacted so strongly. It was partly that Deja Johnson always had the anxious face of someone expecting the worst. Everyone knew that her mother was an RN; in fact, she worked with Serena Wong's mother down at the Cleveland Clinic, and her father managed a warehouse on the West Side. There weren't many black kids in the orchestra, though, and when her parents showed up for concerts, they sat in the last row, by themselves; they never chitchatted with the other parents about skiing or remodeling or plans for spring break. They had lived all of Deja's life in a comfortable little house at the south end of Shaker, and she had gone from kindergarten all the way up to high school without—as people joked—saying more than ten words a year.

  • 1
  • 2

From Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Celeste Ng, 2017.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Books on Adoption

Join and Save 20%!

Become a member and
discover exceptional books.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: I'm the Girl
    I'm the Girl
    by Courtney Summers
    YA author Courtney Summers doesn't believe in shielding her teenage readers from the world's darkest...
  • Book Jacket: They're Going to Love You
    They're Going to Love You
    by Meg Howrey
    Teenage Carlisle lives with her mother in Ohio, but their relationship has never felt particularly ...
  • Book Jacket: The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    by Isaac Blum
    That irreplaceable feeling of everyone knowing your name. The yearning to be anonymous. Parents ...
  • Book Jacket: Now Is Not the Time to Panic
    Now Is Not the Time to Panic
    by Kevin Wilson
    The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Family Izquierdo
    by Rubén Degollado

    A masterful debut that weaves together the lives of three generations of a Mexican American family bound by love, and a curse.

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

W N, W Not

and be entered to win..

Who Said...

Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.