Published by Penguin Books
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Purchase Links Amazon
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned—from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors 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 teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town—and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood—and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.
How do you even begin to describe this book? There are so many layers woven into this novel that there is just no way to authentically describe it. What I can say is that this book left me speechless and breathless. When reading, I felt like I had to look up and take a gulp of air every now and then because I was so deeply immersed in reading that I forgot to breathe. This is a book about how many people, of various ages and backgrounds, learn that the world isn’t black or white, no matter how much they might want it to be. This world is complex and there are many questions in the world that do not have a perfect answer. That is the beauty and horror of life.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that is similar to LFE. I really don’t. The characters are complex, each one of them is portrayed completely differently than the rest. It is impossible to confuse them. What makes this book special is the care the author takes to make sure that the relationships between each of the characters is unique. The further along you get in reading this book, the more involved and intertwined the journeys and relationships of all of the characters get.
This is a book that has a circular beginning and ending. However, if one was to just read the beginning and then skip to the end, they wouldn’t think much of this book. Honestly, the beginning and the last couple of pages might intrigue some readers, but I feel like they’re the weakest parts of the book. The middle, the core, THAT is where the story is. Every page, every word is essential.
I must admit, when I started reading this book, I actually didn’t like it. I don’t like books with tropes of ‘wild childs’ or people who disobey the norms of society for what some people could consider ‘foolishness.’ But, I am so glad that I was in a book club that was reading this book. Because that’s the point of this book. There are scenes that are supposed to make you feel uncomfortable and/or annoy you. There are moments when you want to yell at the characters because ‘CAN’T THEY JUST MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION?’ But in reality, there often is no right decision. There are so many quotes that jumped out at me while reading this book. One in particular was from Mr. Richardson, who shares a similar sentiment to the one I just described.
“The problem with rules, he reflected, was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time there were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure which side of the line you stood on.” (Pg 269)
LFE is a book that makes me realize my privilege to be brought up by parents who have worked hard to provide me with a good life. They have taught me the rules of society, but they also allow me the freedom to be independent and make my own choices. They trust me and I trust them. We do not hide secrets— we support each other. LFE discusses class, privilege, race, and power in ways that are sometimes subtle and sometimes glaringly obvious. As such, the author makes you (the reader) question your values and beliefs. Should you choose to be just like society says, or should you break free? In the book, we see how characters answer this question, and the ripples that these choices make throughout their surroundings.
Overall I absolutely recommend this book and give it 4.5/5 stars.