I read Celeste Ng’s “All The Things I Never Told You” in 2016 and loved it: After ten years of reading nothing but Nicholas Sparks, Jodie Picoult and Luanne Rice I finally got my hands on a book that didn’t involve wholesome lovers and happy endings. I suddenly craved something a little more thematic, diverse, and provocative, yearned for flawed characters and realistic timelines and societies. Celeste’s book delivered just that: Exposed me to a world that existed beyond my gaze.
I was very intrigued then, by her second book, and was giddy once I surrendered to the hype and bought myself her colorful new hardcover, “Little Fires Everywhere.”
This book was outstanding: It reminded me of a Stepford Wives-esque suburban utopia with all of its secrets buried deep within it. Nothing outlandish ever happened in Shaker Heights, Ohio- Homes were beautiful, school systems were exemplary, and the people that inhabited the town were successful and orderly. One day, a single mother and her daughter moved into a home for rent and piqued the interest of many. The Richardson’s finally had something to talk about- this uncanny duo now lived next door to them and seemed to be happy- and quite content- living with the bare minimum and with no one to rely on but each other.
Neighborhood children became friends, some lovers, while the adults on the street began investigating the life that Mia Warren was leading. Surely, there were secrets inside that rented household. Why was Mia without a man? What led her and her daughter into town? Were they heading somewhere, or running away from something?
The story unwinds and unravels until the very last chapter when everything quite literally catches fire. And suddenly you are at your final page, satisfied- not wanting more, not drowning in sympathy for the characters, but utterly pleased with how the story ended. For me, the climax was a little disruptive, a little messy… and I found that oddly refreshing.
FINAL SCORE: 4.2
BEST FOR: Those who love a good mystery, enjoy spending time peeling back the layers of a good book.
NOT GOOD FOR: Those who crave instant gratification.
IF THIS BOOK/ AUTHOR WAS A HIGH SCHOOL STEREOTYPE: It’d be the quiet kid. The one that keeps to his or herself but really has a whole lot to say.