Book review: Little Fires Everywhere

This series is dedicated to offering helpful honest book reviews.

Today’s review is for Celeste Ng’s novel Little Fires Everywhere. Here is the official synopsis from Goodreads:

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours 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 teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

From the synopsis alone, Little Fires Everywhere would not be a book I pick up on my own—the book cover itself is fairly ordinary, and family drama is not my favourite genre or subject to read about. However, it came highly recommended and won the Goodreads Choice for 2017.

What I liked about it

Little Fires Everywhere is an immensely readable novel and it is very easy to get into once you start. It follows a number of interesting characters who all harbour their own secrets which are revealed as the story progresses. There are a number of twists and turns that make it quite a fun, page turning read. It’s fair to say the less you know about the story, the more enjoyable it will be.

The pacing is great, the writing is quite solid and the story itself is very entertaining, especially if you enjoy contemporary mysteries.

What I didn’t like about it

While I really enjoyed the process of reading this book, there were a couple of things I wasn’t a huge fan of… namely, the omniscient narrator which took me out of the story a few times. An omniscient narrator is one that appears to travel across space and time to share information that no other character would know. I found the use a little odd and I’m not sure that it made the story any better.

The novel does attempt to explore some interesting ethical issues but I felt that the authors’ own bias was much too obvious, especially with regard to how she treats the characters she likes vs ones she doesn’t like.

Without giving away any spoilers, some characters in this book behave in ways which are so wrong to me, I found it shocking that they never truly suffered the consequences of their actions.

Will you like this book?

If you enjoy books about family drama with a mystery that unfolds slowly as the story goes on then you may enjoy Little Fires Everywhere. The mystery element doesn’t drive the plot, yet it is still a page turner because it is the characters who make it interesting. This makes for a much richer reading experience than what you will find with a generic mystery suspense novel. However, this book is not an in-depth character study by any stretch, so if you love to dive into the minds of characters and watch as they evolve and develop—you may not enjoy this book since its characters are fairly one note.

If you enjoyed Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret, you’ll definitely like this one.

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