Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere

Review by Emily Fuller

All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control.

Shaker Heights is the paramount of the suburban dream. It’s placid and progressive. Its meticulous town planning is something to be proud of and admired. Residents take comfort in their unspoken agreement of playing by the rules – no one more than Elena Richardson, Shaker’s golden girl of the community.

The day Mia Warren – a single mother and an ambiguous artist – arrives with her teenage daughter Pearl, Shaker suddenly becomes substantially more colourful and turbulent. They quickly fall into renting a quaint little townhouse, owned by none other than the Richardsons. Mia and Pearl quickly find themselves inextricably entwined with the upstanding citizens that are the Richardson family. The Richardson children become captivated by the mother-daughter relationship they share – which proves to be a threat to the carefully ordered community of Shaker.

This book falls into a very peculiar fictional style that I have grown to love immensely. I will say this: do not go in to this novel anticipating a typical fast-paced and endlessly thrilling plot line. No, this is a quiet, slow-moving novel that constructs an intense psychoanalytical character portrait that is filled intricate and complex relationships, as well as being accompanied by the political drama that occupies a small suburban town. I found myself completely engrossed in this piece of fiction. The character developments are so vivid and rich, that it tricks you into falling into an illusory sense of reality because of how three-dimensional they become. Celeste Ng’s style of prose is so intricate and multi-faceted, in which she utilises to instil a sense of empathy for all of her characters within us as readers, even those who are morally corrupt and manipulative. She blurs the lines of what is black and white – particularly regarding issues of race, motherhood, adolescence and rules.

I felt each of these characters and their intricate relationships pull me into their exceptionally ordinary suburban lives. I was manipulated continually by the author, from detesting a particular character to then feeling overwhelmed with sympathy for them – just in the quick span of a few chapters. Little Fires Everywhere is a book I would highly recommend for anyone who has a thirst for exploring the extraordinary within the mundane. Because no matter how much you try to protect and shelter yourself from the hardships of life, you can never quite escape it – regardless of how strictly you follow the rules.

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