Saturday, 24 March 2018

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.

Book: Little Fires Everywhere 

Author: Celeste Ng 

Pages: 356 

Publisher: Little Brown 

Read On: Kindle 

How Long it Took Me Read: 3 days 

Plot Summary: Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down. 
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned - from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren - an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When the Richardsons' friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family - and Mia's.

General Thoughts: I read Celeste Ng's debut novel Everything I Never Told you back when it came out and while I really enjoyed the writing style and the premise of the book, there some plot points and some of the character's motivations that didn't quite work for me. You can read my review of it HERE.  When I knew she had written another book I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it. But I decided to give it a go since I did enjoy the writing of her debut novel and I had heard quite a few people loving this book. 

Things I Loved: 

1. Books about families and the family unit are some of my favourite things to read about. Honestly, there is so much you can do with a family, especially the slightly dysfunctional ones. This book is full of families of all kinds. The traditional upper middle class white family in the affluent suburbs, a mother daughter duo who live untraditionally and a couple struggling to have a baby and a single Chinese immigrant woman fighting for her right to have her baby back. All kinds of families and so much interesting and engaging reading material. 

2. The writing as expected was wonderful. 

3. There is so much going on in this book- the Richardson family and each of it's member is going through something, the fight to adopt a Chinese-American baby and of course Mia and Pearl. The writer does a great job of keeping of these different strands of the story going and never once making all of it feel like too much. 

4. This is the kind of book that will make you stop and think. Really think about the issues on hand and where you stand on said issues. Who should raise a child? The birth mother who in the grips of postpartum depression abandoned her? Or do the adoptive parents have more rights? I found myself mulling over this and I love when books do this. 

5. The characters in this book are phenomenally well-done. Each of them was well-crafted and entirely believable, yet no one in this book is flawless. Everyone here, even the ones who start out as inherently good or the ones you ought to be rooting for are real and flawed to an extent. 

6. The setting of this book, in the 90s was something I enjoyed as well. 

7. One the main themes of the book is motherhood. And what is the best kind of motherhood. Is it a mother who plans and is organised and is in someways the ideal version of western motherhood? Or is the carefree and relaxed mother who is more your friend? Thought provoking stuff. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

Oh Man! I did like this book for most part and I did enjoy the time I spent with it but this is by no means a perfect book. 

1. Mia is supposed to be and is quite frankly portrayed as this beacon of love and light. She is shown as a great mother and even mother figure to other kids. But honestly, I found her quite annoying. She is nomadic for the heck of it and has this huge chip on her shoulder. And...I am trying not to give spoilers but once you know the true nature of Pearl's birth...ugh! I wanted to go and slap Mia and slap her hard! I lost all respect for her and honestly the whole book pitches one mother again the other but by the end I honestly thought Mrs. Richardson was a better person. 

2. The whole tussle for the baby was an interesting plot point but it's resolution in the book, personally broke my heart.  I was not a fan! 

3. The title of the book comes from an actual fire set by the youngest Richardson child..I though that this fire starter would have a bigger role in this story but we almost never even see her or get to know her. 

4. It also annoyed me that we were meant to dislike Mrs. Richardson from the very beginning. Now she isn't an amazing person or good through and through but I hated that we were meant to judge her and love Mia...who turns out to be quite despicable by the end of the book! 

5. The ending and it's open ended nature wasn't something I really liked either. 

Rating: 3.5/5 

I did enjoy this book for most part and I certainly liked it a whole lot better than Everything I Never Told You. 

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