Good Reading : September 2017
Lit L tle Fires Everywhere Celeste Ng M e li d lack shee rs Richardson stands on her front lawn, watching the fire brigade trying to save her blazing house. Three of her teenage children eturn home and watch the smoke billowing from the windows. The firemen say there were little fires everywhere, as if they had been deliberately lit. Everyone blames Izzy, the wild, weird black sheep of the family who is nowhere to be found. For the rest of the novel, Celeste Ng develops the pre-fire stories of two very different families who are navigating the pitfalls of parenthood, racial issues, teenage romance, loyalties and dark secrets. The Richardsons live in Shaker Heights, a meticulously planned suburb in Cleveland, Ohio, where there are many rules about what you can and cannot do. They also own an investment property there, and Mia and her daughter, Pearl, are their new tenants. Mrs Richardson is a local newspaper reporter, orderly and regimented like Shaker Heights itself, and her children exude an air of confidence. Mia, in contrast, is a poor artist who makes her own rules without apology. Frequent moves have made Pearl unsure and timid, but Mia promises her that they will stay here. Pearl, however, becomes fascinated by, and friendly with, the Richardsons, and Mia feels increasingly concerned. There is also a custody battle over baby Mirabelle between her Chinese birth mother and the adoptive parents, who all live in Shaker Heights. The local community is sharply divided. Mrs Richardson and Mia support opposite sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs Richardson seeks to uncover Mia’s dark secrets – with devastating results. Celeste Ng weaves the themes of family and morality into a poignant and entertaining story. The mysteries of who lit the house fire and why are revealed at the end, giving the Shaker community a new discussion topic. She dedicates the novel to ‘those out on their own paths, setting little fires’. ★★★★ Little, Brown $29.99 Reviewed by Judith Grace About Celeste Ng American writer Celeste Ng grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, the setting of her latest novel. Celeste has said that, although Shaker Heights was known for being racially diverse, it’s also very focused on appearances, and the community still struggles with issues of class, race and inequality.