I loved Celeste Ng’s debut, Everything I Never Told You, a novel about a young girl who committed suicide, so when this came out months ago I fully intended to start it as soon as I could. The thing is, Ng writes multiple POV and I’m not all that keen on that style as it can be jarring. What I found this time, however, was that Ng has perfected it.
Little Fires Everywhere centres around the Richardson’s, a family of six and the Warren's, who rent an apartment from them. Mia Warren is everything that Mrs Richardson is not, a free spirit who doesn’t obey the rules and is happy to live a meagre life, instead dedicating herself to her art. Mia doesn’t care about material goods and having a conventional life with the big home and big car, but Mrs Richardson does. She can’t understand someone like Mia and this leads to some tension. One of Mrs Richardson’s children, Izzy, is a free spirit, like Mia and admires her, spending much time with her. Mia’s own daughter, Pearl, craves the stability of a life like the Richardson’s and spends much of her time with them. However, Pearl doesn’t actively resent her mother, like Izzy, so her motivation for spending time at the Richardson’s is more innocent.
The main story takes hold when a friend of the Richardson’s try to adopt a Chinese-American baby. The mother of this baby is a friend of Mia’s and when a court-case ensues as the birth mother of the baby wants to regain custody, tensions skyrocket.
The novel was brimming with themes and ideas, such as whether of not it’s right to adopt a child of different ethnicity and potentially rob it of it’s heritage. This and every other idea tied in with the major theme of identity and what you lose when you choose a different path than that which is right for you.
Celeste Ng really shines when it comes to character building. She doesn’t neglect any character, however small. There were numerous sub-plots, meaning that each character got their chance to shine and become their own.
There was a lot going on here, but it never felt like too much. I do, however, think it may have benefited from a little less going on, if only to strengthen the other themes. Regardless, I can’t wait for her next book.