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Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere is an excellent family drama about growing up, the messiness of life and the relationships between parents and their kids. I picked this one up because it was featured on Reese Witherspoon’s book club. I love that she features stories by, about and starring kick ass women and so far I’ve liked all her picks that I’ve read. I also saw that it recently got released and a mini-series and as always, I want to read the book before I watch the show so that like my own little fire under my ass to finally pull it off the bookshelf!

“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.” 

In this novel we follow two main families, the Richardson’s who have the perfect life, big house, affluent and well-connected parents and all poster child kids except for the one black sheep. Their world gets changed forever when a nomad family of two, Mia and her daughter Pearl, move into their rental unit.

Pearl and Mia quickly become entangled in the Richardson’s lives and the more interweaved they become, the harder it is to get unstuck without getting hurt. Pearl craves the stability and normal-ness of the Richardson’s where as their ‘bad egg’ daughter Izzie, is drawn to Mia’s strong, carefree, and artistic ways.

But when a disputed custody case rocks the famously quiet and peaceful town, Mia and Mrs. Richardson find themselves on very opposite sides and digging into Mia’s past, Mrs Richardson sets off a chain reaction that lights the fuse of the delicate balance of the families.

One of the big focuses of this story is the issue of what makes a parent, what makes your child your own and how parents’ actions or personalities can shape their children. This expertly portrayed in the custody case where we see a single Asian mother fighting to regain custody of her child that has been adopted by wealthy white parents. The author asks us what is better for the child? A life with her natural family but struggling to get by, or a life of security but no connection to her family or heritage?

“Most of the time, everyone deserves more than one chance. We all do things we regret now and then. You just have to carry them with you.”

We also see in the case of Pearl and Izzie, the traits of their mothers and the way their mothers treat them directly influences who they become and ironically drives them towards finding comfort in the opposing family and with the other mother. It is interesting to think about how the treatment of their daughters was driven by protectiveness, which became over-protectiveness and in Mrs. Richardson’s case became anger and Mia’s case became sheltering.

Other things that we get into are issues of abortion, surrogacy and IVF which adds more layers to the exploration of children and parenting that creates such a varied array of things to consider.

“It came, over and over, down to this: What made someone a mother? Was it biology alone, or was it love?” 

The characters in this one are just fantastic. There are quite a lot of them and each of them in unique, flawed and has their own growth story. Whilst there are so many we still get to spend time with each and these little insights build such a deep and wide view of the town and all it’s different I habitants. We see how different events effect these people in opposing ways, and also how the actions of one causes reactions of another.

This book also does one of my favourite things and that’s give us one off incidents, or one time snippets into a person outside of the main plot that doesn’t really spawn its own storyline and resolution, but it adds another element to the main plot, drives a characters evolution or marks a big change. We only really get part of the story from that random point of view though and it’s like a little Easter egg or bonus content that gives us a secret window in. The author did this here most notably for me when we spent time in a teachers mind that was the casualty of a school prank, we don’t hear from her again but the story within the main story and how it worked in seamlessly and gave us a bit extra to think about was done really well and I love it when it is!

“I don’t have a plan, I’m afraid, but then, no one really does, no matter what they say.” 

I really enjoyed this one and am so glad I picked it up. It did take me a little while to get into which is pretty normal for me in the ensemble point of view novels. It just takes me a little while to feel pulled in and get to know the characters. But once I did, I was hooked!

Now onto the tv series and hoping it’s just as good, though Reese Witherspoon is one producer that knows how to do a novel justice on the screen!

I read this for my Popsugar Reading Challenge prompt “a book by a WOC”. You can check out my progress here.

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