Monday 23 December 2019

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere
Little Fires Everywhere
By Celeste Ng

Shaker Heights is a perfect town outside of Cleveland.  It’s been planned, manicured and held to the highest standards for over a hundred years.  Well-educated parents raise children in Shaker who grow up to be the next generation of perfect.  

Elena Richardson is no exception.  A journalist by trade, Elena is married to a lawyer and has four children, just as she planned.  Lexie, Trip and Moodie are all different but fit well into the grand Richardson design, or so Elena thinks.  Only Izzy is a thorn in her side, constantly challenging Elena’s beliefs and trying her patience.

Enter Mia Warren and her daughter, Pearl.  Mia is an artist with little money.  She takes random jobs to survive and has been moving from place to place for as long as Pearl can remember.  This time, Mia has promised Pearl that they will stay put.  Elena feels she is doing them a favour by letting them rent an apartment from her.  She even offers Mia a job cooking and cleaning in the Richardson home.

But Mia and Pearl become much more entwined with the Richardson household than anyone ever imagined.  Teenage Pearl befriends the Richardson siblings, especially Moodie, and begins spending her afternoons lounging on the couch with them watching Jerry Springer.  Izzy, on the other hand, by all accounts a rebel, befriends Mia and insists on helping her with her art.  Mia does not hold Izzy to her mother’s standards and just lets her be who she is.

But Elena becomes curious about Mia.  Who is this woman who has infiltrated her life, and who is her daughter?  As Elena begins to dig into Mia’s past, secrets are revealed.  Little does she know that her own children have many secrets too. 

Little Fires Everywhere is amazingly readable.  As she did in Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng questions parents who require their children to fit into predetermined molds and examines the effects on the children.  Some cope better than others, but all of them hide their true selves from their parents.  

Ng also has an uncanny ability to make you question your own parenting skills.  Her very believable characters all think they are doing the right thing.  But as parents, you never really know, do you?