Friday, October 6, 2017

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE BY CELESTE NG - BOOK REVIEW

Ng has once again created a masterpiece! I thoroughly enjoyed her previous novel Everything I Never Told You so I was very excited for this book. And I am happy to report that not only did this book meet the expectations I had for it, it surpassed them tenfold.

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Thanks so much to Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review, as always, all opinions are my own.


The story is really about an entire town, but it focuses on three main families. The two matriarchs include Elena Richardson, a Shaker Heights native working as a journalist who is raising four teenagers, Lexie, Moody, Trip, and Izzy, with her lawyer husband. She is renting out a house to Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl. The third family includes a couple fighting to adopt a baby whose mother, in a moment of desperation, gave her up. As a custody battle ensues, the community is shaken to its core and the true boundaries of the utopian perfection are stretched. Really, this book is extremely difficult to summarize into a few sentences.

One of the aspects of this book that immediately drew me in was the writing style and the narration. Ng weaves the story in a quality of writing that far surpasses many other books I've ever read. The way she is able to tell the story, both in the current time and through flashes back to the past, flows seamlessly. The narration of the book switches from third person narrative with all the characters so flawlessly that you don't even realize a narrator has changed until you hear their distinct voice. Ng switches narrator without ever disengaging from the story.

While this book is a bit of a slower build, you don't mind because you can't help but savour the story. I found myself wondering where things were going but thinking it didn't really matter because whatever I was reading at that moment was so well done that it didn't matter.

The story is set in the late 1990s, a detail that is only really noticeable through the occasional mentions of technology still to advance (cell phones being infrequently used and with antennas) and the featured president (the Bill Clinton presidency and scandal). I didn't really mind the throwback, although I found it an interesting choice. I think a lot of books are set in the 70s or 80s but I don't read many that have been set in the 90s.

Keeping this era in mind, Ng does a beautiful job incorporating some racial nuances throughout the book, as well as some social taboos, such as abortion and teen pregnancy, that are still prevalent today. At the core of the legal debate about the baby is the idea of race and heritage, will this white couple be able to share the baby's Chinese heritage with her or is her biological mother the better option, even though she abandoned her. Ng shows the difficulty in making such decisions because things are rarely black and white. No one is all good or all bad, but a mix of the two at different times.

Another aspect that really intrigued me about this book as the town of Shaker Heights in general. There was a little bit of backstory on the town, which is a real place, and how it was developed. Meticulous plans, school boundaries measured, house colours unified and regulated. It was really interesting to read about this modern-day utopia and how maybe things aren't so utopian.

Overall, I think I've found another favourite of the year, highly recommend this one!