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Book Review

Tender story about motherhood and family

 

Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere is a tender story about the complexities of motherhood and family.

At the beginning of the book, Pearl and her mother Mia have moved out of an apartment which the Richardson family rented out to them.

On coming home, the Richardson family finds that their house is burning and that the perpetrator lit a fire on everyone’s bed. The children can’t find Izzy, a sibling who is brought out as rebellious and aggressive; everyone is positive that she is the perpetrator.

The book is then a long flashback to the time before this fire. It took me a long time to read, perhaps because, despite its title, the plot was not dependent on dramatic occurrences.

You could even tell that from the lack of theatre in the description of the fire itself. It was simply a story about a family, and in there was enough plot.

The narrator is omnipresent and we are able to get a sense of the story through the eyes of many different characters in the book.

It is unsettling, sometimes, when we see, for instance, the way that Mrs Richardson seems perfectly gracious to Mia and Pearl but are also aware that some of her high regard for them can turn into something dark and sinister.

Specifically, I loved that the narrator could get into the minds of the children. It was exciting to follow the intricate complexities of the children’s platonic and romantic relationships, for instance, the relationship between Pearl and each of the Richardson children.

I was especially glad that the author gave the children’s emotions the same, if not more, attention as she did the adults’.

The writing in the book is extraordinary. For me, this was most evident in the way that the small quirky town where the characters live is also a character in the book.

In Shaker Heights, the systems functioned and everything was where it should be.

Especially was that Mia and Pearl had to leave their trash bags at the back of the house on pickup day rather than the front, to maintain the town’s aesthetics.

This juxtaposed against the realities of the different characters’ lives, which grew less and less serene the more we learnt, was a well-woven tension which I enjoyed immensely.

Unlike author Jodi Picoult’s declaration on the cover of the book, I did not read Ms Ng’s novel “in a single, breathless sitting.”

However, the emotional journey and the delicate way in which the author describes everyone’s emotional journey captured my attention from Page One all the way to 388.

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