Author of Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng writes her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, a suburban saga that ignites your interest right from the start. In the opening chapter, members of the Richardson family stand outside their family home, watching as firemen frantically attempt to save it from being consumed in a fiery blaze. Most of the family are quite certain they know the culprit behind the house fire. Yet because the accused younger sister has disappeared, and the reasons for the fire seem unresolved – so starts of the mystery.
Yet this is not a real mystery. Little Fires Everywhere is more a human study of family dynamics, the secret lives of teenagers plus the all-consuming power of motherhood.
Set in Shaker, Ohio, a town that hails the motto, “Most communities just happen; the best are planned.” readers are introduced to a town with a planned system for success. In Shaker, all the houses have pre-approved colour schemes, and its residents are steadfast, educated and rule followers. Elena Richardson with her loving marriage, four picture-perfect children and upper middle-class house is living proof that the system works. That is, until single-mother Mia with her teenage daughter Pearl become tenants of the Richardson’s rental property.
From here, the novel unfolds in a slow burn that ever so carefully reveals the complexities of all its characters but also their hidden secrets. Motherhood, one of the central themes, gets tested throughout the story, especially when a custody battle ensues between a friend of the Richardson’s, Mrs. and Mr. McCullough, who are in the middle of adopting a Chinese American baby and a friend of Mia’s, Bebe, who is the birth mother. This battle not only splits the town, it becomes the catalyst of ‘little fires everywhere’…jealousy, anger and ultimately revenge.
Quote from Little Fires Everywhere: Anger is fear’s bodyguard.