“It came, over and over, down to this: What made someone a mother? Was it biology alone, or was it love?”
I am sure you have heard a lot of things about this book before. It’s made a huge impact, it was listed for awards and it’s had so much buzz, from all over the Internet. Reese Witherspoon is doing an adaptation of it and it’s one of those big books, in terms of engagement online. And I don’t know why it took me so long to pick it up. It’s a perfect book for me. It focuses on family and character dynamics, and it’s set in a small town. The only option for me was to love this. And I did.
Little Fires everywhere is set in the town of Shaker Heights, where everything is perfect on the outside. All is proper and everyone is thriving. Until a mother and a daughter arrive into the town and until a court dispute over adoption throws the town into complete disarray.
I have told you time and time again how much I love small town settings. It’s the perfect backdrop for a character-driven story and the perfect setting for a scandal. And that’s exactly what happens here. This story is quiet and unassuming only because it handles the slow and steady downfall of numerous families and their town and it’s a brilliant way to explore deeply complex relationships between people. And it was stunning. The town of Shaker Heights has that charm and superficialness that is just waiting to be upheaved. And that it was.
Celeste Ng’s writing is stunning. I kept getting taken aback by how good her writing is. And not just beautiful. It’s incredibly insightful and packs such a punch. I feel like she has a really good grasp on the introspective life of people and I think she nails human nature. She just gets it. And I really loved every single sentence in this novel. I will leave you with my favorite paragraph of the novel, just so you can understand how good this is.
“To a parent, your child wasn’t just a person: your child was a place, a kind of Narnia, a vast eternal place where the present you were living and the past you remembered and the future you longed for all at the same time. You could see it every time you looked at her: layered in her face was the baby she’d been and the child she’d become and the adult she would grow up to be, and you saw them all simultaneously, like a 3-D image. It made your head spin. It was a place you could take refuge, if you knew how to get in. And each time you left it, each time your child passed out of your sight, you feared you might never be able to return to that place again.”
This paragraph really sat well with me and I keep thinking about it and how true it feels. Just stunning.
I have mentioned previously how important nuance is to me in literature. I don’t like black and white sentiments. I don’t like black and white characters. I need nuance in everything I read and that’s something that Celeste Ng does really well. She has so much understanding for her characters and I feel like she cares for all of them so deeply. It’s incredibly obvious in her writing. All of her characters are flawed (some more than others) but she gives all of them a space to express themselves and I feel like all of the characters get to shine. They get to be themselves. We get a glimpse of each of their emotions and rationalizations, the way they think and feel and why they think and feel that way. I absolutely adored that and I am so impressed with everything Celeste Ng did here.
The reading experience of this felt really personal. I could see myself in these characters and I could see a lot of my parents in these characters which was a really rewarding thing. I feel that books that I end up loving the most always end up being the ones I have a personal connection to and that I can relate to. And it got me thinking about reading and the way we experience books and how reading really is about having that sort of really involved and personal experience.
I could not recommend this book more to you. I loved it, it’s a masterpiece and it’s so so good. I highly recommend it and I hope all of you will pick it up.
Rating: 4.5 stars
I would love to hear from you! Have you read this one? What were your thoughts? Have you read Celeste Ng’s first book? Let me know!
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