This month I read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Little Fires Everywhere (LFE) is a story based in the Shaker Heights neighborhood just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Shaker Heights was thought to be one of the best neighborhoods in the country. The Richardsons, like most families in Shaker Heights, had a “proper” life; they had well-paying jobs, a big house, and beautiful children. Elena Richardson, a mother who prides herself in “giving back” to those less fortunate, rents out their second home to families in need, which is how we met the Warren family. Mia Warren, a single mother raising her only-daughter Pearl, doesn’t live a “proper” life. Mia and Pearl jump around a lot. Mia works odd jobs, earning just enough money to pay the bills but still leaving her enough time to pursue her passion, photography. Everything seems normal. The Warrens, different but unassuming. And the Richardsons, carefully crafted perfection. But under it all were small, though increasingly hot, fires. Elena’s prejudice, Mia’s carefully guarded past, and their children’s secrets and conflicts. Those little fires everywhere burned until there was nothing left.
I loved LFE! The story is wonderfully told and the writing is beautiful. The story is told through an omniscient narrator. The story starts at the end, a fire, and then jumps back to the beginning to work its way back up. I frequently found myself admiring sentences enough to reread them. The author touches on issues of race and class that, on more than one occasion, lead to debates with my girlfriend (who doubles as my reading partner) about the morality of the events unfolding. And the end was sad, but filled with hope.
My rating is a 9 out of 10.