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Cover of Little Fires Everywhere
Rated 4.13
30,232 ratings

Little Fires Everywhere

By: Celeste Ng

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Imprint: Penguin Press

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780735224292

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From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, the intertwined stories of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the mother and daughter who upend their lives -I read Little Fires Everywhere in a single, breathless sitting. With brilliance and beauty, Celeste Ng dissects a microcosm of American society just when we need to see it beneath the microscope...- -Jodi Picoult, New York Times-bestselling author of Small Great Things and Leaving Time 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.
In Mia, Ng shows how the presence of an artist who has eschewed the stock measures of American success — a big house, a steady job, plenty of money, children who are popular and successful in academics and athletics — threatens people who have bought into this system, even at the cost of damaging their kids. With each revelation, Little Fires Everywhere grows more propulsive and insightful, boring through the placid surface of American suburbia.
—Dallas Morning News
It's this vast and complex network of moral affiliations — and the nuanced omniscient voice that Ng employs to navigate it — that make this novel even more ambitious and accomplished than her debut. If occasionally the story strains beneath this undertaking — if we hear the squeaky creak of a plot twist or if a character is too conveniently introduced — we hardly mind, for our trusty narrator is as powerful and persuasive and delightfully clever as the narrator in a Victorian novel.
—New York Times
It appears Ng has one-upped herself with her tremendous follow-up novel. Get ready. This one will not only send your noggin on a bender, it'll touch your heart, too.... Though we do find out whodunit in the end, it's almost beside the point. In its place, what Ng delivers is a finely wrought meditation on the nature of motherhood, the dangers of privilege and a cautionary tale about how even the tiniest of secrets can rip families apart and turn perceptions on their head.... If “Little Fires Everywhere” doesn't give you pause and help you think differently about humanity and this country's current state of affairs, start over from the beginning and read the book again.
—San Francisco Chronicle
The book has some serious themes, but the tone is refreshingly animated, less dependent on ennui and adultery than many of the books that have defined suburban American fiction.... The plot is tightly structured, full of echoes and convergence, the characters bound together by a growing number of thick, overlapping threads.... Like Shaker Heights, “Little Fires Everywhere” is meticulously planned, every storyline and detail placed with obvious purpose. This can be overbearing at times — an on-the-nose college essay prompt comes to mind — but the overall effect is strong and thoroughly enjoyable. Ng is a confident, talented writer, and it's a pleasure to inhabit the lives of her characters and experience the rhythms of Shaker Heights through her clean, observant prose.... Ng sets fire to Shaker Heights, and the result is both unruly and glorious, a novel that vibrates with the heat of life.
—Los Angeles Times
[W]hat happens when your carefully laid plans ignite and all that is left is a heap of ashes? "Little Fires Everywhere," Celeste Ng's riveting new novel, explores that question, unearthing the ways that race, class, motherhood and belonging intersect to shape each individual.... Ng has proved to be highly adept at this type of plot-driven storytelling, and her acclaimed 2014 debut, "Everything I Never Told You," exhibits a similarly structured narrative, exploring many of the same themes of race and status. Her new work is also concerned with the pulls of motherhood, raising questions around how biology, privilege and community influence a woman's fitness for the role.... Perhaps Ng's most impressive feat is inviting the reader's forgiveness for Mrs. Richardson –– a woman whose own mission for perfection, and strict adherence to rules ultimately become the catalyst for the maelstrom that ensues.
—Chicago Tribune
After some time, it becomes clear that Ng's keenness to write a think piece on interracial adoption is greater than her desire to truly inhabit these characters and their desires. Regrettably, even Mia — who Ng frames as the artist-as-truthteller — remains one note, reducing the effectiveness of her arguments about showing people as she sees them.... For all her democratic storytelling and skillful plot weaving, Ng never supplies the requisite heat. And yet, there's much soil for fruit. Here's hoping Ng's next novel will make harvests burn.
—Washington Post
The writing is poised and tidy as well — too tidy, in fact, for a novel whose allegiances are with rebels and freethinkers. The characters' central traits are so baldly stated that they may as well be spelled out in topiary.... Which isn't to say that “Little Fires Everywhere” isn't smart and readable. It's both, eminently so. But 2017 has seen unforgettable breakdowns of suburban domesticity in treatments as various as Nicole Krauss's intellectual fantasia “Forest Dark,” Dan Chaon's gothic horror novel “Ill Will” and the undiluted surrealism of David Lynch's “Twin Peaks” reboot. Ms. Ng's book seems, in contrast, a little too orderly.
—Wall Street Journal
Each and every one of these characters speak their truths to the reader. Ng writes with sentences that run clean but deep, rich with detail but not a word out of place. She understands drive, family and the multitudes of womanhood. She is an expert at omniscient narration, weaving timeline and backstories with propulsive forward motion, deepening our investment in the story. This book is, rightfully, one of the most recommended of the season.
—Bookreporter.com
As with Ng's much loved and lauded 2014 debut, "Everything I Never Told You," this is a novel about class and race, privilege and prejudice, and unraveling family ties. For a while Ng treads water with mildly involving teen antics and suburban strife. However, after characters pick sides, reveal their true colors and clash, we become in thrall to a multilayered, tightly focused and expertly plotted narrative.... In places, Ng overdoes her fire-and-flames imagery. This niggle aside, she has crafted a deeply impressive novel with the power to provoke and entrance.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
Richly imagined and teeming with secrets, the novel ultimately involves a showdown between Mrs. Richardson, an alpha burgher quietly frustrated with her piddling career as a reporter for the local weekly, and Mia, a photographer who has found a way, poverty notwithstanding, to keep creating the art that is her passion.... What Ng has written, in this thoroughly entertaining novel, is a pointed and persuasive social critique, teasing out the myriad forms of privilege and predation that stand between so many people and their achievement of the American dream. But there is a heartening optimism, too. This is a book that believes in the transformative powers of art and genuine kindness — and in the promise of new growth, even after devastation, even after everything has turned to ash.
—Boston Globe
While “Everything I Never Told You” focused intensely and single-mindedly on solving the mystery of a teenage death within a context of gender and racial stereotyping, “Little Fires Everywhere” has more pages, more characters and more themes, among them affluence; conformism and their discontents; cross-racial adoption and the rights of biological parents; and what artists have to offer the rest of us.... Celeste Ng grew up in Shaker Heights, and has poured her knowledge of the place into the thorough and rather brutal depiction of it here.
—Newsday
When the novel opens with the large home of its central characters burning to the ground, the reader knows there is trouble in paradise. The novel's message seems to be “Perfect Is the Enemy of Art and Nuance.” But if the author's fire-inspired imagery is at times heavy-handed, the depth of her characters, the deftness of her plotting and the texture of her created world lift the book and provide surprises.... Best-laid plans soon spiral out of control and sparks fly literally and figuratively in this tightly plotted novel that addresses issues of economic class, race, ethnicity and privilege. The novel asks what makes for a good parent and provides no easy answers.
—Kansas City Star
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