Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
"Little Fires Everywhere is a straight-up thriller...From the beginning, Ng's confident use of the omniscient voice signals that this is a writer in total control...While the plot whisks you breathlessly along, it lays out the bones of a debate about race and parenthood." (Sunday Times, Pick of the Paperbacks)
"To say I love this book is an understatement. It's a deep psychological mystery about the power of motherhood, the intensity of teenage love, and the danger of perfection. It moved me to tears." (Reese Witherspoon)
From the back of the book:
Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.
In the placid, progressive suburb of Shaker Heights everything is meticulously planned - from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours 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 principal is playing by the rules...
My Review (vague spoilers):
This was a well written, relatively easy read and there was a great deal of character development which I enjoyed, but others in book club found a little slow. The second half of the book moved a bit faster as there were many different plots starting to develop.
The over-arching themes of the class divide, unconscious racism and motherhood blanketed all the actions in this book. The two key characters, both mothers with very different approaches to life highlighted how our expectations and dreams for our lives and the reality that comes to pass can often take us by surprise, and often we learn to be happy with what we have. I felt the end of the book with Mia's photographs was extremely powerful and beautiful, to me signalling that there is still room for all of us to change and decide who we are.
This book made for great discussion whether people enjoyed the book or not as there were many simultaneous plots that had no "right answer" to them.
I do not read that many books by Asian-American authors and I liked this one so much, I decided to also read Celeste Ng's first book Everything I Never Told You. I can see how Little Fires Everywhere had a larger audience as it included more general themes that everyone could relate to in some way and while this book also revolved around family dynamics, as it was set in the 1970s, the focus was much more on racism and sexism.
I highly recommend this book, especially if you are a racial minority, and particularly if you are of Asian decent as it does an amazing job of verbalising the feelings of unspoken bias and the how these insecurities lying just below the surface can colour all interactions and what you pass on to the next generation. I found this book heartbreaking at times and also so interesting to see the different points of view of the main characters throughout the story.