Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere by [Ng, Celeste] Summary:

This book chronicles the meeting of the “perfect” American family with a nomadic artist and her teenage daughter. It details their multiple and complicated entanglements and how they eventually unravel.

My Observations:

  • I enjoyed how the imagery of fire and burning were used throughout the book. It evidenced the author’s skill at structuring a book and added depth to some scenes that seemed minor in comparison to others.
  • I liked the suspense of not knowing for sure who set the fires that destroyed the Richardsons’ home.
  • I was disappointed when we found out who the perpetrator was. There was no surprise or shock, which undercut what was supposed to be the novel’s powerful denouement.
  • I appreciated the author’s observations about feeling trapped, whether you were in a repressive little community or living a “free” bohemian lifestyle.
  • It’s not a new revelation that children are a bridge between the past and the future, but the way in which Ms. Ng discussed the idea was nuanced and interesting.
  • Ms. Ng apparently grew up in the Shaker Heights community described in the novel. It’s a real place, but the fact that every last detail of that community is planned out, well-groomed, and whitewashed, makes it seem fake. It was hard for me to attach Shaker Heights to the real world–in no small part because it seems a lot like the communities in the dystopian literature that’s so popular these days. Realism has a particular sort of power that was lost in this book.
  • This book is a good example of how telling rather than showing drains fictional scenes of life. The narrative came across as clinical. The rough edges of the characters’ experiences were filed off and their passion was squelched.
  • The author’s portrayal of how well-meaning white people completely miss the point in discussions about race and culture made me cringe in a way that helped me learn and moderate my own behavior.
  • This book raises some big questions about motherhood.
    • Are wealthier people more fit to be parents than poor people? Mentally-well vs. mentally-ill? Married vs. Single?
    • Are there people who deserve to be mothers and those who don’t?
    • How much structure vs. freedom should mothers give their children?
    • Is cross-cultural/racial adoption ever appropriate?
    • Is abortion ever an appropriate decision?
    • How much self-effacement is required of a woman when raising children?
  • After being a mother for nearly 17 years, I still don’t have any hard and fast answers to many of these questions.


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