Entertainment Magazine Volume 69, Issue 3

BOTM: Little Fires Everywhere

Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, begins with a mysterious fire destroying the home of The Richardson’s, a wealthy and well established family living in a small, seemingly perfect town. The mystery of this burning makes us wonder how it happened and what led to this tragedy. From there, the novel spirals into a flurry of uncovered past secret lives of teenagers and the secrets parents keep from their kids. Mia and her daughter Pearl Warren, live a vicarious and spur of the moment life, moving from town to town, searching for inspiration for Mia’s next photos; they have travelled the country with nothing more than her VW Rabbit and her camera. The Warren’s have lived in every type of city and house, following Mia’s hunger for photos. Mia lives in a set timeline: she takes pictures, develops them, and sends them to a gallery in New York where her publisher sends her the money from what she sells, and then they move on to look for the next inspiration. When they settle in Shaker Heights, Mia assures Pearl this is where they will stay. They rent an apartment from Elena Richardson upon arrival and unpack the very few belongings they have. Elena, her husband, and their four kids have lived in Shaker Heights their whole lives. On the outside, their family matches the effortless perfection of the town. However, like most “perfect” things, there is always something going on beneath the surface. Lexi, the classic girl next door, Trip, the jock, Moody, who lives in his older siblings shadows, and Izzie, the black sheep of the family, are the four Richardson children, who each form different connections to Mia and Pearl. Pearl, dying to belong, becomes entangled in the lives of the Richardsons; Moody as her best friend, Trip as her first love, and Lexi as her idol. On the other hand, Mia and Izzie develop a bond and it turns out Mia is just the person Izzie can relate to. As Pearl and the Richardson kids lives begin to intertwine, the mothers form connections with each other while Elena looks into the past of Mia. The suspicion that comes with the maternal need to protect your kids, leads Elena to uncover what has been swept under the rug and hidden by Mia. Meanwhile a custody battle ensues between a couple unable to have kids that recently came to adopt Mirabelle a one year old chinese baby, and Bebe Chow a distraught chinese immigrant mother caught in financial doubt and maternal pain when she gave up her baby. As the town is divided into different sides, racism becomes a prominent theme in this late 90’s novel. As each character is implicated through stories of the past and visions of the future we wonder who set the little fires everywhere. 

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