You know that picture-perfect suburb? Watch as dirty secrets and juicy neighborhood drama bring it down in flames.
Why I love it
You know the feeling: with a certain kind of novel, you suspend all disbelief from the get-go. This world, this setting, these characters, seem so real and inviting that you give yourself up to them completely—it’s a bit like falling in love.
Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere is one of those special books. Set in wealthy Shaker Heights, Ohio, in the 1990s, it’s the story of how two very different families both come together and break apart. The families live a mile apart in this wealthy planned community with rules governing everything down to the colors of the houses. Beyond that, their circumstances couldn’t be more different. The Richardsons—journalist Elena, attorney Bill, and their four teenage children—thrive in this cosseted suburban splendor, their sprawling, gracious home the embodiment of order and privilege. The "other family," the Warrens—Mia, a footloose artist and single mom to 15-year-old Pearl—have landed in the neighborhood’s most modest home with the hopes that Pearl can take advantage of its top-notch schools after years of contented wandering.
And Pearl ends up getting an education, all right, but not exactly the one her mom had in mind. They rent their bare-bones apartment from the Richardsons and before long the families find themselves intertwined. Mia’s creative energy intrigues the convention-bound Richardson kids even as Elena’s stability and creature-comforts attract Pearl. With teenage hormones added to the mix, the situation turns out to be combustible.
Ng excels at characterization: She’s juggling a lot of characters here, but each one feels fully realized and relatable. And she’s no slouch at suspense. The novel opens with the Richardson home up in flames and the Warrens leaving town—you spend the next 360 pages dying to know how events could possibly lead to that. Best of all is the story’s multidimensionality. Themes of class, individuality vs. community, the shadows cast by our pasts, and the true meaning of motherhood play out not just in the main story but in a subplot about the contested adoption of a Chinese baby by a Shaker Heights family. Each thread of the plot comes together without seeming forced.
I finished Little Fires Everywhere fully satisfied—yet also not quite ready to leave the world Ng so deftly created.
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting story set in meticulously planned Shaker Heights that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned—from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors 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 principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren—an enigmatic artist and single mother—who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town—and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood—and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.
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I loved everything about this book. From the first to last page I couldn’t put this book down. I’m usually not a fan of “mystery” but Ng incorporated so many smaller plots that I couldn’t stop reading
I was so pleased with this book; it’s truly a new personal favorite. Ng does a great job with character development and capturing each’s perspective, highlighting that often, there’s more to glean. ❤️
New York, NY
One of the best books I’ve read...! Page turner, epic story line, love the character build ups. Could the ending be a little better? Yes.. but there’s so much to digest! Definitely worth the read ❤️
it’s been awhile since i’ve read a book i thoroughly enjoyed from cover to cover. the plot was a good, steady build and the end didn’t feel rushed, unfinished, or too neatly tied together. great find.
Lancaster , PA
This book gives you the feeling of that opening scene of Edward Scissor hands, Ng has an amazing voice and makes you feel like every character is equally important without becoming boring. 5 ⭐️stars !
Thoughtful character development draws you into this novel right at the start. I’m pleasantly surprised that I’m still very drawn to this most unique yet relevant story and it’s magnetic characters.
The best thing about Celeste Ng’s writing is how she manages to make you feel for every single character’s perspective...even the ones you set out to hate. It’s amazing what understanding can grow.
New York, NY
As I read the first few lines I thought to myself, “I want to write like Celeste Ng when I grow up.” I really enjoyed this book and felt like a voyeur in the lives of the residents of Shaker Heights.
Felt all the different feels. Frustrated with the implicit racism, exasperated with a mother’s need to constantly protect her daughter yet another’s lack of oversight, escaped back to younger years...
Van Nuys, CA
It was slow moving with so much detail at first but it really takes off and becomes completely worth it & more. This book really makes you think about what it mean to be a “well meaning” white woman.
At first this book was slow, but keep reading. I loved how everyone had their own stories that intertwined. It really dived into looking beyond the surface ￼of what a family looks like on the outside.
Interesting perspective on the intricacies of motherhood told by Mia & Eleana—2 very different women. Reminding us having a plan doesn't always make it so and that you can't always run from your past.
Phoenix , AZ
This book handles so many controversies. What makes you a parent? Is wanting what’s best for yourself truly selfish? I loved how the main issue made me think. Loved the personalitys of the characters.
I enjoyed reminiscing my own years in high school when reading this entertaining story. Ng did an amazing job providing so many perspectives...so different from anything else I’ve read and I loved it!
Winter Park, FL
I couldn’t put this book down. I think I read it in two days. The author has a way of emotionally connecting you to each character no matter how relevant. Such a beautiful story of mother and daughter
I have been wanting to read this forever and especially before I watched it on Hulu. 10/10 book. I really hope there’s another one coming out- I couldnt put this down at all! I loved every character.
Armonk , NY
Although it was a bit tedious in the beginning, I found this book to be hauntingly beautiful! Ng’s,exploration of relationships: Family, mothers, siblings, friendships & social perceptions was spot on
This was a wonderful read. The characters are relatable, but mysterious. I found myself sad to put it down when “the real world” called, but excited to pick it up again and to see will happen next!
The story of a perfect family in Shaker Heights… and their not-so-perfect youngest daughter and tenants. Despite typical suburban angst and adolescence, Ng explores the human condition with respect.
Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, was one of the first cities in the 1950's to promote racial integration. Fast forward to now and we have the story of the haves and have-nots. Meet Elena and Mia