Little fires everywhere - Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere is a novel by American writer Celeste Ng, published in 2017 and recreated in mini-series by Reese Witherspoon in 2020, making the world’s exclusive bestseller even more popular.

The story takes place in 1998, when the house of one of the most successful and tidy families in the village of Shaker Heights, near Cleveland, where the author of the novel grew up, burned down in a fire for an unknown reason.

The people of Shaker Heights are like the people from all other villages in America. But one thing is for sure – they live very happily. Everything there is planned to perfection – the height of the grass, the colour of the houses, the successful lives of its inhabitants. And no one embodies this spirit better than Elena Richardson, whose basic principle in life is to play by the rules. 

“Rules existed for a reason: if you followed them, you would succeed; if you didn’t, you might burn the world to the ground.”

All of that changed when Mia Warren, an artist and single mother, arrived in town with her teenage daughter, Pearl, and moved into a rented apartment by the Richardson family. Mia and Pearl soon become more than tenants: all four of the Richardson children felt attached to the new occupants. But Mia carries with her the secrets of the past, and she also doesn’t care about the choice of life of the residents of Shaker Heights, which threatens to overturn the carefully organized community.

Little fires everywhere - Celeste Ng

When old family friends of the Richardson family try to adopt a child, this marks the beginning of a custody battle that splits the city in two … and puts Mia and Elena on the opposite sides. Elena is a supporter of the idea of ​​the child going to the adoptive parents, as a stable family with opportunities, while Mia embraces and fights for the possibility of the real mother of the child to regain her rights over her. And how is the right decision to be made – between people who can give everything to the child and have wanted one for years and the mother who is just a mother and despite her mistake she feels sorry for it and wants to correct it?! Who can say what is right?! But this feud is growing so much that Elena is determined to reveal the secrets buried in the past of the traveling artist Mia Warren. But are the findings worth the high price that she has to pay at the end?

This is Celeste Ng’s second book, after the bestseller “Everything I Never Told You”, and her first novel I read. It is fair to say that I did not know what to expect – the opinions I read were very opposite. The family relations, the characters, the desires, the parties occupied by everyone in the debate are torn in great detail – not only among the villagers, but also details among the members of the Richardson family, and the opinion of the author can be easily felt, however she does not oblige you to have the same idea as her and does not tease you for it. And it definitely shows that every day there are small fires to deal with until a really big one comes that shakes our world, and it doesn’t matter how much we “play” by the rules and how successful and influential we are. Life is FIRE!

“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”

In me, the book left a feeling of tearing between the choices one faces, but also the conviction that it is best to do what is right for you, because no matter how much we run, our truths and desires always emerge and they find a way to “bite” us.

And the series, produced by Reese Witherspoon, recreates the story quite accurately. Yes, it’s a series, there are discrepancies with the book, but the main line is the same and the feeling it leaves behind does not change. And the cast is extremely well chosen.

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