Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.
Izzy Richardson does not follow the rules, and this is a problem for her mother, Elena Richardson, born and raised in Shaker Heights, and life-long rule follower. The older three Richardson children have all fallen in line with the life prescribed by their mother and their community, but when single mother Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl move into the family rental property, the children begin to see all sorts of new possibilities.
Pearl quickly finds a place in the solidity of the Richardson household, where everything is planned, steady and organized, a life very different from the one she has lived with her artistic mother, who has moved them around the U.S. her entire life. Meanwhile Izzy latches onto Mia, who seems to recognize something in Izzy that her family has neither seen or understood. As their worlds begin to thread together, a local polarizing incident causes everyone to take sides, lines are drawn, and secrets begin to come out.
Today there are many set rules for how things should be done: do well in school, drink eight glasses of water a day, get regular haircuts, don’t have a child out-of-wedlock, don’t watch too much TV, the list goes on and on. Not that these are bad rules to follow, the problem lies with believing that anyone who doesn’t play along is wrong or has made a mistake, as Ng so eloquently summarizes:
One had followed the rules, and one had not. But the problem with rules… was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time they were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure what side of the line you stood on.”
The story also had some amazing insight on race, motherhood, and life as a minority in America. I would recommend this to someone looking for an insightful, deep, yet hopeful novel with a building pace, flawed characters who experience growth. If you were born in the early 80s you will probably enjoy the throwbacks to your youth as well, the novel is mostly set in the mid-late 90s.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Published on: September 12, 2017
I read this as: an eAudiobook from Audible