I’d seen Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng recommended by a lot of people, particularly my friend Suzanne at Inside, Outside and Beyond. I bought it a while ago, but hadn’t got round to reading it. If I’m honest I had that fear I sometimes get with popular books – what if I didn’t like it as much as everyone else?! (This was the case with Normal People.) I needn’t have worried. I was hooked on Little Fires Everywhere right from the first page.
The book starts with the little fires – which turn into quite a big fire – and then goes back in time nearly a year to the events leading up to the fire. The story is about the seemingly perfect Richardson family – mum, dad and four teenagers very close in age, living in the regimented community of Shaker Heights. Then Mia and Pearl come into their lives.
Mia is a photographer, and she and her daughter Pearl never stay in one place for more than a few months. Mia finishes a project, then they pack up their car and move on. But this time Mia promises Pearl they will stay. They become the Richardsons’ tenants. The four Richardson kids are fascinated by Mia and Pearl and how different their lives are from their own. Before long, the mother and daughter are a big part of the Richardsons’ lives. But Mia won’t follow the rules of Shaker Heights and Mrs Richardson wants to find out more about her tenant.
Meanwhile, the Richardsons’ friends have adopted a Chinese baby after years of childlessness, but then the baby’s real mother comes back on the scene and the Shaker Heights community is divided. Who has the right to the baby – the couple who could give her everything or the woman who gave birth to her? Mia and Mrs Richardson find themselves on opposing sides in the drama, with the Richardson children torn between the two.
As the custody battle comes to an end, Mrs Richardson’s obsession with finding out the truth about Mia comes at a devastating cost to all of the families.
This is a brilliant read and I would recommend it to anyone, whatever genre you enjoy.