Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

    Little Fires Everywhere is a book that I wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy, but I am so glad that I opened the cover and read the first chapter! I was hooked right away and devoured this book within a few sittings. I think you will too!

The book opens with two controversies for the reader to grab onto right away. Who is Mirabelle McCullough and May Ling Chow? And why is the Richardson house burning down and where is Izzy?

Shaker Heights is a suburb of Cleveland where everything is planned out. The roads are curved to slow down traffic and all lead to main roads. The colors and styles of the houses are organized into sections. Lawns, trees, and garbage can placement is even laid out in the rules. Lives of residents are planned out as well. Elena Richardson has deep roots in Shaker Heights. She and her husband are raising their four teenage children – Izzy, Moody, Trip, Lexie – by the community’s rules.

Enter Mia and Pearl. Mia is an artist and a single mother, raising Pearl, her teenage daughter. They have traveled all over the country, leaving town whenever Mia has finished a project. They are opposite the Richardson family, and Shaker Heights, in every way. Mia and Pearl rent an apartment from the Richardson’s. Pearl, who has been raised to only keep what she can pack up and fit into their car, becomes drawn to the Richardson family and their vast amounts of belongings and steady lifestyle. The Richardson children, especially Izzy, become drawn to Mia and Pearl, who live simply and are free from the confines of a Shaker Heights lifestyle.

A major controversy over the adoption of a child soon tests the core values of the residents of Shaker Heights. The biological mother of an infant about to be adopted by the McCullough’s, close friends of the Richardson’s, wants her baby back. The case goes in front of a judge, who  must decide if baby Mirabelle is better with the single mother who gave her up or the loving McCullough’s of upscale Shaker Heights. This all too realistic debate divides a normally quiet community, proving that even the best laid out plans can go astray. And all it took was one mysterious mother and daughter to upend the anchored and picture-perfect family.

I cannot say too much more because I’ll spoil the book. This is a must-read. Celeste Ng does a fantastic job in creating her characters and storylines. They all face everyday challenges that happen in school – pressure of fitting in, getting into college, consequences for actions – and in real adult life – protecting your family, weight of secrets and true identity, supporting friends.

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