Set in 1990’s suburban America, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is the fifteenth book that I have read in 2019 as part of my reading challenge. With excellently crafted characters, this novel engrossed my mind and remained engaging throughout.
The theme of family and relationships is evident throughout this book. The Richardson’s are the superficial definition of “the ideal family” – two parents, two sons and two daughters living in a big house with a perfect lawn in a beautiful neighborhood. The author illustrates the differences between how a family appears on the outside and how they function on the inside. Each character of the Richardson family is carefully created by Ng and I expect everyone will relate to at least one of the teenagers, if not to various aspects of them all.
Furthermore, the theme of race runs alongside the theme of family and relationships. Celeste Ng reminds us of the prejudice that existed in 1990’s America (and to an extent exists today) through the character Brian. Brian is a black teenage boy who has high expectations of himself, determined not to be seen as “another black kid” who “knocked a girl up before he even graduated from high school”. Both Brian and Lexie understand the disgrace they would bring to their families if they were to become teens parents in the “perfect” Shaker Heights community.
Celeste Ng brings to life the taboo subject of abortion. After only becoming legal in Ireland in the last year, abortion remains a topic of conversation that many people do not wish to visit and will avoid at all costs. The author carefully crafts the characters’ experiences and opinions to reflect today’s reality. Similarly, Emilie Pine brought this subject to life in her series of personal essays entitled Notes to Self.
Does our past determine our future? Celeste Ng prompts us to contemplate this question. Revisiting the theme of family and relationships, the story line explores the preconceived futures that parents have for their children versus the reality of what that child wants for themselves and subsequently goes on to achieve. This question is predominantly raised through the relationship that Mia has with her parents and through the relationship that Mrs. Richardson has with her children, specifically her youngest child, Izzy.
For the gripping story line, the relevance to present day society and the variety of unique characters, I would highly recommend Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. After reading a string of psychological thrillers and murder mysteries, it was pleasant to dive into a different genre and style of writing. As a result, I have now added another book by this author to my “to-read” list called Everything I Never Told You.