There are a lot of layers involved in Ng’s award winning novel and Little Fires Everywhere employs one of my least favorite tricks- starting in the present with the climatic event before restarting at the true beginning of the story. Mrs. Richardson, a wealthy journalist in the Utopian town of Shaker Heights, wakes up to her house in flames; she was sleeping in after a rough day involving her tenant leaving the apartment she rented and the reader is treated to the events that led to both the fire and the move.
Mia Warren, a transient artist, moves to Shaker Heights with her young daughter, Pearl, who becomes fast friends with the landlord’s, Mrs. Richardson, children. Pearl, who is infatuated by the comfortable and structured lifestyle of the Richardsons, becomes a bit of a pet project for the oldest Richardson, Lexie, and her younger brother, Moody, who has a bit of a crush on Pearl. These newfound relationships begins to wear the close bond Pearl has with Mia who finds a surrogate daughter and artistic apprentice in the youngest Richardson, Izzy.
During all of this a contested adoption case makes waves in Shaker Heights and inspires Mrs. Richardson to investigate further into the secretive family living in her duplex and spending time with her children. Mrs. Richardson is the closest thing to a villain we have here but her intentions are good but misguided. I found the adoption case the least impressive part of the whole novel. I was also a bit let down by the ending.
“Rules existed for a reason: if you followed them, you would succeed; if you didn’t, you might burn the world to the ground.”
A lot of this is pretty unbelievable, although made a bit more believable by being set in the late 90s and therefore before cellphones and Google, but the writing is top notch. All the characters are well written and well rounded with both irritating and redeeming qualities whose personalities seem rooted in the grey areas of reality.