“Little Fires Everywhere:” A New Type of Mystery
In Shaker Heights, everything is planned and in order. It has been that way forever, until the Warren family arrives. Mia Warren, and her teenage daughter Pearl, move to the small suburb in Ohio and follow their usual routine of setting up a home that they know they will only stay in for months at most. Because of Mia’s career as a photographer, they are constantly on the move.
Mia and Pearl rent an apartment from the Richardsons, a family that is the picture perfect symbol of what Shaker Heights strives to be. Mother Elena Richardson has been living in Shaker Heights her whole life as the editor of the local newspaper, and her husband Bill is a prominent lawyer. Her four kids: Lexie, Trip, Moody and Izzy, are all in high school and among the most popular faces of the town. Soon, Moody befriends Pearl Warren, and the two families’ lives become more intertwined than originally planned. “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng tells the story of how these two families become so close, but eventually tear each others’ lives apart.
As the story unfolds, a local legal case stirs up tension in the town, leaving the Richardsons and the Warrens on opposing sides. Bebe Chow surrenders her infant at the steps of a firehouse, and the child is taken into custody by the Richardsons, who have been trying to adopt for years. However, months later, Bebe resurfaces and wants her baby back. Is there a right decision? Does a child belong with her birth mother or did Bebe forfeit all rights to her child when she left her on the steps that cold, snowy night?
The case, personally touching to both Mia and Elena, resurrects private details from Mia’s cryptic past. Elena, a journalist at heart, claims she had always had a skeptical feeling about Mia, and so she makes it her mission to uncover information that could tear the Warren family apart.
The novel, intricately woven together by detailed portrayals of every character, emphasizes many ethical issues, and questions which side of the case is right, if either is at all. As the Richardson children become closer friends with Pearl, more secrets arise and conflict stirs, tearing the Richardson family apart from the inside out.
Ng shades the novel in a mysterious light, beginning with a flash forward scene of the Richardson family standing outside of their house, erupting in flames, being told by a firefighter that the fire was indeed intentional. This leads to many questions from the start: who started the fire? Why? And where is Izzy?
If I were to rate “Little Fires Everywhere,” I would give it four out of five stars. The plot was undeniably unique and fascinating, and the writing was detailed and intricate. However, the beginning was very slow and difficult to become captured by. Once I hit the middle, I couldn’t put it down.
“Little Fires Everywhere” is a perfect read for anyone who loves a mystery, but could do without the fear factor. In this emotionally riveting novel, Celeste Ng challenges the reader’s beliefs: what is right and wrong? And what is the weight of a secret?