- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 11 hours and 27 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Hachette Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: November 9, 2017
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B073JY58N8
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Little Fires Everywhere
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At the start of the story, we know that a house, belonging to the Richardson family, leaders in their community, is ablaze, with “little fires everywhere” bringing the home to ruin. Moreover, as the story progresses, it mines the undercurrents and conflicts unfolding in the neighborhood, and the inexorable events that ensue when an itinerant mother-daughter move in and casually defy every rule in the well-ordered, tony Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland.
In this cookie-cutter suburb, the doyenne set the moral tone of regimental planning and deference to convention. Elena Richardson was an ambitious journalist, but subverted her talent and success (now writing trivial articles for the community paper) after marriage to her attorney husband. Her loving but over-controlling nature is now enforced on her four teenage children. The youngest, Izzie, is a strong-willed girl and considered the black sheep of the family. Elena can’t seem to keep Izzie’s independent spirit in check.
Elena doubles down on her insistence to community expectations and suppresses the nature and sensitivities that she acquiesced in youth. She inherited property from her parents in the modest part of town and now rents it out to less fortunate individuals with, what she believes, is strong character and willing submission to Shaker Heights principles.
In moves the nomadic artist Mia and her intriguing teenage daughter, Pearl, to one of Elena’s rental duplexes. That’s when the seams in the seamless-seeming community start splitting. The Richardson children are drawn to Pearl and Mia, and soon Pearl becomes a regular fixture in the Richardson home. The more that Mia casually ignores shallow convention, the more Elena digs in her heels. Elena’s ability to control events becomes precarious, bringing out her invidious qualities as she attempts to gain control of the mysterious Mia. Exploiting her professional contacts in self-interest, Elena subsequently confronts her own demons, blithely unaware of the consequences.
Mia repurposes objects into unique formats and themes, photographs them, and uses techniques that reflect her perceptions of the world around her, which invites the reader into startling and intimate motifs. Elena was captivated by one of Mia’s photographs, of a woman in blurred motion, a tangle of limbs that made her resemble a giant spider. She knew that “artists didn’t think like normal people,” particularly compared to her own stringent lifestyle, and she wanted to keep an eye on Mia, “as you might keep your eye on a dangerous beast.”
As the story tightened its coil, I was nearly trembling in anticipation. Ng has impeccable restraint over her narrative, gradually leading to a surprising conclusion, despite the first pages’ foreshadowing. She furnishes a sly portrait of suburbia, where the cracks and fissures that aren’t present in the manicured houses and streets are nevertheless rupturing the very misguided families that the rules aim to defend. The plot simmers and scorches, and the three-dimensional characters are poised to walk off the pages. The dangerous beast within is primed to lose control. This thoughtful and compelling narrative is a winner, with never a dull moment.
Clearly at this juncture I am the ONLY person who has reacted this way, but I'll take the leap and post my opinion to encourage others who might feel the same to not be put off by sheer numbers.
When an author spend half the book explaining, you know she's in trouble. A good book reveals and unfolds, does not explain. And poor character development on top of it. Where do these people come up with all that money to rebuild their house? Your insurance will not pay for arson, and Izzy should be in an institution.
When the novel got to the crux of the story, it was really, really good. The plot focus about a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her, was really, really well done. All sorts of details are woven together in a terrific way.
I loved how the author really paid attention to details.....one of the characters is a reporter on a second-rate weekly in Cleveland and she uses her reporting skills to dig up a lot of background on other characters. A less-skilled writer would have just had a character (who had never learned how to research) suddenly become an ace detective.
I was up WAY too late finishing this book last night (really this early morning). The second two-thirds of the book are fascinating, thought-provoking and touching.
I recently ordered the author's first novel on CD for an upcoming trip and I'm looking forward to it!