Hello Bookworms, the long-awaited review(at least for me) for Little Fires Everywhere has finally arrived! I assume that many of you have either read or have heard of this novel as it hastily became a massive bestseller worldwide. And although this book was initially released in 2017, it was published again by a large publishing company this year, which prompted it to gain an even broader following. Basically what I’m attempting to say is that the book was REALLY hyped up. So you can imagine my disappointment when I came across some unlikeable characters and an astonishingly slow plot. I genuinely feel as if something may be wrong with me for not loving or even liking this book. I cannot even FIND a negative review on Goodreads….. I mean there’s a first time for everything right….?
Also, if you were planning on watching the Hulu series that’s based on this book, RUN THE OTHER WAY. I watched the first episode with my mom, and I can already tell it’s going to drone on and on and by the end, you are going to realize you just wasted 15 hours of your life.
Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Publisher: Published March 17th 2020 by Penguin Books (first published September 12th 2017)s
Length: Paperback, 368 pages
Summary: From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel 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. (goodreads)
Recommendation: It’s more than obvious that I didn’t like this book. After reading hundreds of positive reviews and being pressured(
not really) into reading this by my close friends, I was VERY puzzled to find I didn’t enjoy the book. The entire novel seemed quite uneventful and honestly boring, and I couldn’t bring myself to love any of the characters. I appreciate the writing, and I really did love the depth to each character, but there was nothing that brought this whole novel together in the end, it was sort of “blah“.
This book seems to have been way overhyped, so I am not that shocked by how I feel, but I would have loved to have gotten more out of this book.
I can sincerely say that my favourite character in this insipid book was Elena Richardson. Good old Elena, the conforming suburban mother that Celeste Ng evidently HATES, as she tries EVERYTHING she possibly can to make us despise her. But that’s too bad for you Celeste because I LOVE HER. One of my biggest pet peeves when reading is when an author’s writing is biased. It doesn’t matter what it’s towards, but in this book, it is clear as day that the author favours Mia Warren. The fact that the author so very openly promotes Mia, makes me dislike her that much more. Mia’s characterized as a “cool single mom”, who’s “different” and “quirky” when she is simply just a bad mother.
Here are two quotes for the character’s that give you a little insight on their personality.
Mia Warren as described in the book :
“In all her years of itinerant living, Mia had developed one rule: Don’t get attached. To any place, to any apartment, to anything.”
Elena Richardson as described in the book :
“She had been brought to follow rules, to believe that the proper functioning of the world depended on her compliance, and follow them—and believe—she did. She had a plan, from girlhood on, and had followed it scrupulously: high school, college, boyfriend, marriage, job, mortgage, children.”
Like mother, like daughter, Pearl Warren was a completely different type of annoying but was annoying all the same. Mia’s 15-year-old daughter is portrayed to be very intelligent, but soon becomes inappropriately attached to the Richardson family. She wasn’t a character that resonated with me at all, despite our proximity in age. This is most likely because of my dislike towards her mother, but either way, she wasn’t an important character in my mind.
Here are some characters who would have tremendously improved the novel if given more chances to speak. Those characters would be Bill Richardson(Elena’s husband), Lexie Richardson(Elena’s daughter) and even Bebe Chow. Out of all these characters, it seems to me that Bebe Chow was the one that was most left out of this book. She had such a powerful story that could have been further explored. Her narrative seemed to have been stolen from her, and all the attention was geared towards Mia(typical Celeste…putting all the attention on Mia….).
This plot moved VERY slowly. As Little Fires Everywhere is a character-driven book, it’s not unusual that the plot wasn’t the main focus. But every reader wants to know that the time and money they spent on a book wasn’t for nothing. Unfortunately, after reading Little Fires Everywhere, I didn’t have all that much to show for it. The plot never quite paid off and continued to be excruciatingly painful until the very end, when the reader finally realizes that there is no “satisfying” ending.
Something I did appreciate in the novel was the heavy focus on the dichotomy between Elena Richardson and Mia Warren. The author successfully chronicled the differences in parenting, and how far each mother would go for their child.
Books that get this much attention in the media, that are hyped up for months on end, typically all end with me feeling the same frustration. As always, Little Fires Everywhere was no different, but I would have LOVED to have gotten more out of this book. I wish I could feel the way other readers feel towards this novel. Simply put, it’s clear this book was written to be something deeply meaningful, and be a book that I would forever love but it is far from it. I would recommend this novel to the ages of 17+.
A little about the author: Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize. Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, will be published by Penguin Press in fall 2017. (goodreads)
Praise for Little Fires Everywhere
“I read Little Fires Everywhere in a single, breathless sitting.” —Jodi Picoult
“To say I love this book is an understatement. It’s a deep psychological mystery about the power of motherhood, the intensity of teenage love, and the danger of perfection. It moved me to tears.” —Reese Witherspoon
“Extraordinary . . . books like Little Fires Everywhere don’t come along often.” —John Green