Who is a good mother? The answer to this question is surely a complex one, actually with no definite answer. Exploring one such complex relationship between a mother and daughter is Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste NG. What an apt title indeed for a novel that explores the intricacies of relationships. For often it is fear, insecurity and sorrow that burn a deep hole into it. At the core of the book is the story of a mother and daughter, and around this core are many other little stories inter-woven.
Celeste NG is an American author whose first novel Everything I Never Told You was the Amazon book of the year in 2014. Little Fires Everywhere is her second novel released in September 2017 and won the Goodreads Readers Challenge Award for 2017.
It is all about family dynamics and small town politics
Shaker Heights is a progressive little suburb of Cleveland. It’s a place with long winding roads, well laid out homes, perfectly colored houses and all things meticulously planned. The residents of this suburb have successful lives, living by the rules of one of the prominent residents- Elena Richardson. When all things are going fine, enter Mia Warren, an artist and a single mother to a teenage daughter Pearl. She rents a house from the Richardson and soon Mia (Richardson’s daughter) and Pearl become more than just tenants.
And there is Izzy. She is the youngest of the Richardson and is considered to be the black sheep of the home. Her behavior is seldom approved by anyone in the family. But is Izzy really what Mrs. Richardson fears she is? Or has Mrs. Richardson created Izzy the way she is? Mia on the other hand carries with her a secret, of a mysterious past. At this point, the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby. A custody battle breaks out and the suburb finds itself divided – with Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Mrs. Richardson decides to uncover the secrets of Mia’s past. What are her secrets? As Mrs. Richardson gets to know them, she pays an unexpected and devastating cost to her own family. Little Fires Everywhere is a slow journey exploring relationships, touching upon the heaviness of holding secrets of the past, and heartbreaks.
A character rich book indeed it is
The book begins with several little fires lighting up at the Richardson house and their youngest daughter Izzy is held guilty for the same. Moving back a couple of months from here, is the story of the poor artist, Mia, and her daughter, Pearl. I love the way each of the personal stories of the characters, interlink and finally play a significant part in the story. There are contrasting characters that have to co-exist together. Where Mia is the sacrificing mother, and may be seemingly selfish for the sake of her daughter. On the other hand is Mrs. Richardson with her steady career, lovely home and successful husband. She is the tenacious lady. Interestingly what bind these two ladies are their teenage children. Of motherhood, adolescence, rules and much more, the characters bring together an interesting domestic saga.
Slow and steady progress
Despite the completely competent prose, the story tends to progress at a slow yet steady pace. Don’t expect it to be high in drama. You require some quiet time for this book to savor and appreciate the beauty in its words and metaphors. It would engross you surely.
Well-crafted story with lessons to learn
Through her characters, Celeste NG confronts the truth and reality of life. No one is merely good or bad. We all have different shades to our personalities. We have those cracks as well as our own smooth surfaces. Like a stone that moves down mountains, it is life’s experiences that shape our course.
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown (14 September 2017)