Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: Literary Fiction Review
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Overview: Mrs. Richardson has done everything right as prescribed for women in 1998. She went to college, got married, had four children, and promptly returned to work as a journalist at the small paper in Shaker, Ohio where they live the perfect suburban lives. Never mind that Mrs. Richardson is less than satisfied with how it's all panned out if she really listens to that tiny, niggling part of her brain. But she holds the moral high ground in every situation, so that's fine. Mia, the Richardson's new tenant, paints a sharp relief as the, societally speaking, the wrong to Mrs. Richardson's right. A college drop out, Mia has flitted around the country with her daughter in tow, moving whenever she got the urge, making a living through a series of minimum wage jobs and her photography. She does what's required to survive and leave as much time as possible for her art. Their children serve as fascinating refractions of their dynamics that create a spiral that no one has the power to stem. Overall: 5
Characters: 5 Celeste Ng really excels when it comes to her characters. They're all so delicately built and unfold slowly over time, collecting nuance as the story goes on. Her books always have a large ensemble cast, and somehow, everyone ends the story equally developed. Your heart hurts for everyone involved, and there's a true balance shown of how everyone is the hero and the villain, it just depends on which lens you're looking through at the moment.
In this book, there's an interesting theme that unfolds through the character's interactions about what the definition of success is. Does it mean perfectly following society's rules to create the perfect family, or does it mean breaking all the rules to try to bend the world to the way you'd most like to see it? The book debates the value of material wealth and social standing against artistry and complete freedom and leaves the reader to come to their own conclusions about how much conformity earns you in society and what you lose to its will.
Plot: 4 The plot here was strikingly similar to Everything I Never Told You. The central event is the somewhat reckless actions of a teen girl, and everything spirals out from there, exploring every tiny corner of the characters' lives and background stories. In both books, there's also a tiny butterfly moments that spiral the plot out of control. They create truly striking reminder that every major event in our lives come from a pile up of tiny, seemingly inconsequential actions.
If you enjoyed one of Celeste Ng's books and want more, picking up her other novel will more than deliver on that. She's proven to be very consistent as a writer.
Writing: 5 I really enjoy how these books paint teens in an extremely careful, detailed way that is also able to incorporate their parents' and their parents' histories as teens and young adults to show the effects those moments had on their children. Her writing is very holistic, and the books hinge on seeing the entire picture. I never thought I'd really enjoy third person writing, but the way she uses it to slide between character's minds even in a single scene was incredibly well done and not at all jarring. It allows for an increase in context and understanding that only proved to enrich the world. Ng never gets ahead of herself, and none of her many characters are ever forgotten.
More on Reading, Writing, and Me:
Everything I Never Told You Review
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