Thursday, April 30, 2020

Audio Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Genre: Adult Fiction/Audio Book
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Pub. Date: September 12, 2017
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads says, "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."

Elena Richardson lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio, which is a beautiful planned community.  Elena has four children, a gorgeous home, a successful husband, and a job that she loves.  She has it all right? This is the American dream. Mrs. Richardson has a rental home in Shaker Heights that she inherited from her parents and she rents it to the Warrens: Mia, an artist, and her daughter, Pearl.  Mia and Pearl have moved around a lot over the years and live a life that is vastly different than the Richardson's meticulously planned life.  Where the Richardsons are structured, Mia and Pearl are more bohemian.  Pearl is fifteen and goes to school with the Richardson children and she hits it off with Moody Richardson.  They become good friends and in turn, Pearl doesn't want to keep moving around. She likes it at Shaker Heights, especially the Richardson's house, their life, and the attention the Richardson family gives her.  On the other hand, the youngest Richardson, Izzy, is also interested in Mia and her non-comformist lifestyle as Izzy is the black sheep of the family and feels like she really doesn't fit in.  Both the Richardsons and the Warrens become entangled, but things do not unfold easily for them.  Elena's best friend adopts a Chinese-American baby and there's an upsetting custody battle that ensues that puts Mia on one side supporting the biological mother, and Elena on the other side supporting her best friend.  Tensions are high not to mention all the other events that continue to impact the Richardson children as well as Pearl.  Elena tries to look into who exactly Mia is and to learn more about her mysterious past, and once she does it sets of a series of events that impact all of their lives irrevocably.  Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is a fantastic audio book that helped me escape, but also left me with so much to think about.

Elena has it all in Little Fires Everywhere. Or so we thought.  Her life is turned upside down when Mia enters.  At first, she wants to help a single mom out and allows her to rent her property and even offers her a job as the Richardson's housekeeper. Then there's Mia who doesn't care about fitting in; she is a true non-conformist.  Things start to get sticky when Elena and Mia find themselves on different sides of the custody battle.  In turn, Elena starts to find out the truth surrounding Mia's past and she doesn't like what she sees. While all this is happening,  Mia finds her daughter is enamored with the Richardson children and their home life, which is everything that Pearl's isn't where as Izzy Richardson is gravitating towards Mia's bohemian lifestyle despite Elena's best efforts.  It appears the Richardsons and the Warrens have become too close for comfort and the boundary lines between both families have blurred.

Little Fires Everywhere is told from various perspectives, but I found myself equally interested in each one, which rarely happens. I thought for sure that I would gravitate towards Elena's story, but somehow Ng expertly weaves the plots into so much more.  I was also surprised by Ng's ability to make me think and question my preconceived notions.  I thought I was on one particular side during the custody battle, but then I was questioning my position.  I thought it was extraordinary that Ng was able to do that and really show her readers both perspectives.  

Little Fires Everywhere is about so much more than domestic life or family secrets. It was a much deeper book than I was expecting, but I was so pleasantly surprised.  It made me think about life, motherhood, adoption, conformity, rules, prejudices, privilege, and so much more.  Little Fires Everywhere did exactly what the title represents - it lit little fires within me. It made me question, think curiously, and it brought to life so much about America that sometimes hides under the murky surface.  If you are looking for a smart audio book that will keep you entertained, give this one a try. It's one of the best audio books that I've listened this year.  

Have you read Little Fires Everywhere? I am so glad I finally got the chance to listen to it.  Did you watch the show on Hulu or do you have plans to? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  


  1. This is such a good read - I really enjoyed it! I'm four episodes into the show and I'm enjoying it pretty much -although I'm pretty sure I liked the character of Mia more in the book than I do in the show (maybe something to do with Kerry Washington's performance - I find her style a little over-dramatic at times). Reese Witherspoon is great - although her character here pretty much mirrors the character she plays in Big Little Lies. She is well-suited to playing that kind of role, all the same!

    1. Me too! I am four episodes in as well. YES! I felt like the characters on the show weren't as likable at the book. I just talked about this very thing with another friend. Kerry Washington can come off really rude/aloof sometimes with just her non-verbal looks. I completely agree with Reese's character. She plays the same type every time and plays it very well. I can't wait to see how the series ends! We will have to discuss once we are done watching. I hope all is well with you!

  2. I am listing\reading this book now!! Can't wait to watch the Hulu series

    1. I hope you are enjoying it, Kelly! I wanted to read it before I watched the show on Hulu. So far I am enjoying it! Thanks for visiting!


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