Surprise, surprise – I’ve read another book and I absolutely loved it. As a member of the Mumsnet Book Club I get sent out a new book every month to read and share my spoiler free thoughts about it here. This month was quite possible my favourite! Little Fires Everywhere opens with a devastating fire in a seemingly perfect suburb, it’s a gripping mystery that’s more about the people than the main event.
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.
As you can tell from the blurb tensions run high in Little Fires Everywhere, if you’re a fan of suburban mystery and winding plots this is the book for you. I was so gripped by Big Little Lies and this certainly has a similar vibe, in fact Reese Witherspoon has snapped up the rights already!
Something I really enjoyed was how my perception of the characters evolved and changed as more of their background was unveiled. I really appreciated how I didn’t feel there was some huge secret my mind needed to work to solve in the background which allowed all the little pieces of information to truly catch me unawares. Sometimes I find books that are too focussed on the solving of a mystery make me rush but the way Celeste Ng unfurls the plot and the characters made me want to really get to know them all and be carried along with their stories.
There are so little subplots I could highlight, it’s a very complex novel which I think perfectly mirrors the entwined community of Shaker Heights. That said, I never found myself lost or waiting to get back to a particular thread, the novel is so well put together that I could let the story unfold without getting impatient. Ultimately for me Little Fires Everywhere is a story about motherhood covering the most trying circumstances from surrogacy to abortion and adoption. The themes of race and culture were really powerful – i’m actually still unpicking that aspect so if you’ve read it i’d love to chat!! This quote about motherhood in particular stayed with me:
“It came, over and over, down to this: What made someone a mother? Was it biology alone, or was it love?”
I would say Little Fires Everywhere is an ‘easy’ read, in that it’s so well crafted – the story flows and you with it but the themes are uncomfortable – as all good novels should be in my opinion! My only criticism is that I need more answers, I’m sure there will be a follow up or a companion piece. At least I very much hope there will be.
You can buy Little Fires Everywhere on Amazon or in most bookshops. If you’re a fan of Liane Moriarty or are craving a more relatable Desperate Housewives make sure it’s on your reading list this summer.
I’ll leave you with the quote that gave me goosebumps:
“To a parent, your child wasn’t just a person: your child was a place, a kind of Narnia, a vast eternal place where the present you were living and the past you remembered and the future you longed for all existed at once.”