Summary and book reviews of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere

by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng X
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
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  • Published:
    Sep 2017, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Erin Szczechowski

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Book Summary

Winner of the 2017 BookBrowse Fiction Award

From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

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.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

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." ...

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    BookBrowse Awards
    2017

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

All the characters feel lifelike and balanced – everyone has their own strengths and flaws, and you sympathize even with the antagonists. Some of the story's plot does seem derivative. Even if this is not a novel for teens, the sections that feature Pearl and the Richardson children include many familiar tropes of young adult dramas – unrequited and requited love, teenage angst, the value and tensions of friendships, loners contrasted against the popular folk. Still, with its expertly done characterization, beautiful and often poignant writing, and subtle examination of suburban America, Little Fires Everywhere fills the reader with emotions and questions that linger long after the last page is finished.   (Reviewed by Erin Szczechowski).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This is an impressive accomplishment.

Booklist
Starred Review. Ng's stunning second novel is a multilayered examination of how identities are forged and maintained, how families are formed and friendships tested, and how the notion of motherhood is far more fluid than bloodlines would suggest…[A] tour de force.

Library Journal
Starred Review. Spectacular sophomore work...a magnificent, multilayered epic that's perfect for eager readers and destined for major award lists.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright… With her second novel, Ng further proves she's a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Author Blurb Paula Hawkins, New York Times-bestselling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water
Witty, wise and tender. It's a marvel.

Author Blurb Jodi Picoult, New York Times-bestselling author of Small Great Things and Leaving Time
I read Little Fires Everywhere in a single, breathless sitting. With brilliance and beauty, Celeste Ng dissects a microcosm of American society just when we need to see it beneath the microscope.

Author Blurb Peter Ho Davies, author of The Fortunes
Little Fires Everywhere is a dazzlingly protean work - a comedy of manners that doubles as a social novel and reads like a thriller. By turns wry, heart-rending and gimlet-eyed, it confirms Celeste Ng's genius for gripping literary fiction.

Author Blurb Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang and Perfect Little World

As if it wasn't totally obvious from her stunning first novel, Little Fires Everywhere showcases what makes Celeste Ng such a masterful writer. The way she examines the complexity of place, and the people who inhabit that place, is some of the most virtuosic, compelling, and wise storytelling that I've seen in a long time.

Author Blurb Rumaan Alam, author of Rich and Pretty
Yes, it's the story of one Ohio town, but Little Fires Everywhere is not that familiar tale of the underside of the American suburb. It's a powerful work about parenthood and politics, adolescent strife and artistic ambition, and the stark choice between conformity and community.

Author Blurb Mira Jacob, author of The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing
I cracked open this book mid-morning and did not even move again until it was time to turn on a light. What a joy it was to be so thoroughly taken, to let the chores and clocks and even my own breathing stop while I raced through these pages. Celeste Ng once again proves she is a force to be reckoned with. Little Fires Everywhere is a deft, smoldering masterpiece.

Author Blurb Joe Hill, author of The Fireman and Heart-Shaped Box
As I read Celeste Ng's second novel I found myself thinking, again and again: how does she know so much? About all of us? How does she write with such perception, such marvelous grace, such daring and generosity?...It marks Celeste Ng as a writer of the first rank, among the very best in her generation - right there with Zadie Smith and Jacqueline Woodson. I was mad for this book.

Reader Reviews

lani

A book club's dream
Wouldn't I love to be a fly on the wall listening to the animated discussion in book clubs following the reading of this superb novel. This is a novel that demands a book club and is destined to be one of the hottest picks for 2017.The Richardson ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Books on Adoption

In Little Fires Everywhere, an intense custody battle divides the idyllic suburban town of Shaker Heights, Ohio, into two when Bebe Chow, a Chinese immigrant, attempts to regain the rights to her daughter. The baby is now living with a white family after Bebe was forced to abandon her child during a period of desperation and poverty. While adoption alone is rarely the central theme of most novels, it can add new dimensions to the characters, spark plot points, and raise important questions about morality and identity. Below are five books that approach adoption in different ways.

Books on Adoption

Girls in Trouble by Caroline Leavitt
Set in 1987, this novel centers around an "open" adoption. After Sara's lover Danny learns she is pregnant, he splits...

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