The only way I can think to describe Little Fires Everywhere is: quietly beautiful. It is calm and yet fierce. Slow and yet it douses your heart in gasoline quicker than you can imagine.
Little Fires Everywhere follows two families. There is the Richardsons, who live in the idealistic and perfectly constructed community that is Shaker Heights, and Mia and her daughter Pearl, who have the wildness and freedom of two people drifting from place to place. When the latter find themselves renting a place owned by the Richardsons, their lives are intertwined in ways they could never expect. A custody battle occurs in the neighbourhood, with a friend of the Richardson’s, and it drives everyone to their own conflicting opinions, bringing secrets of the past crawling to the surface. The house, and their subsequent lives, are aflame.
Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.
It didn’t take long for me to submerge myself completely in this book. Ng’s writing is so easy to read, fall into, understand, and yet there is so much more to it than what you see on the surface.
What I loved most about this book was that it begins with the knowledge that a house is burning – you are told right from the very start – and yet by the end of the book I found myself caring about so much more than who did it. This wasn’t a typical mystery. This was all about the why, not the who.
The more I read, the more I realised that each and every character bloomed in their own unique way. Whilst a couple stereotypes are present, there is a challenge to each character, a side to them that is slowly revealed as the book continues. I couldn’t help but feel every character deserved their own voice and their own happy ending in their own personal sort of way. Everyone had a deeper reason to the decisions they made, and I liked that these were portrayed ever so gently.
I’m not sure who my favourite character was in this book, but I found Mia’s character the most intriguing. Her love for art, her way of intuitively understanding people, and her desire to care for others really resonated with me. I felt like she was never understood for who she was, until she met Izzy, and I loved this pairing of mismatched old souls with fierce love in their hearts.
I think this book is about so many things – teenagers, parenthood, justice and upbringing – but most importantly love, in all of its kinds. Underneath all the secrets, the anger, the isolation, is just the simple pain of wanting to or feeling or losing some kind of love. It just felt like all this love was bottled and caged rather than communicated, and yet each character knew deep in their hearts that it was present, like a tiny spark.
There is a cyclical nature to this book that I have to touch on, because I think it is so well written. The characters move in and out of these struggles and situations – particularly between mother’s and daughters – that weave in and out of one another, crossing over, and blooming at different points along the timeline. But, overall, there is the distinct notion that there is innate love in raising a child – a love that nothing can defy.
I knew I loved this book by the three-quarter mark, but I did not expect to be so emotionally drawn into what I thought was such a wonderful ending. *spoilers ahead* The envelope that Mia left on the table was full of so much kindness, so much meaning to every member of the Richardson family and this was by far the best moment of the entire book. I really wish Mia’s art was real because it is described so intricately and beautifully with deeper undercurrents. I couldn’t help but feel like Mia was the centre piece that kept all of them together – she was the one who knew them all the best of all, even if she was only watching from afar. It goes to show that vulnerability is at the core of everything – there is a fire inside us all and it only takes one person to release it.
I really encourage anyone to read Little Fires Everywhere who is interested in the depths of family dynamics, in asking yourself conflicting yet important questions and absorbing yourself in a story full of so many overlapping heartfelt stories. I ended this book feeling a little emotional that I had to part, but I am looking forward to watching the TV show (although I really hope they do it justice!)
Have you read Little Fires Everywhere, or do you want to?
Let me know in the comments below!
You can find me on social media here: