Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Mrs. Richardson thought she’d planned her life out quite well.  She had a beautiful home, a devoted husband, four healthy, intelligent teenage children and even a career, benign as it was.  And in Shaker Heights, a planned community just outside of Cleveland, that is what was expected of a well-to-do, educated woman of her stature. Sure, she’d had her moments of passion – she’d grown up in the 60’s after all –  but there was a reason why rules and laws existed.  Orderliness was necessary,  correct.  (Why couldn’t her youngest daughter, Izzy, appreciate that?  Was that so difficult?) And when Mia, an artist, and her daughter Pearl came to live in the apartment that Mrs. Richardson rented out, it was only the right thing to do, to support the arts in her own way, by renting to them.  However, as the two very different families became intertwined, lines became blurred and rules became fuzzy.  At least in the eyes of Elena Richardson.  Not so, to Izzy.

Thanks to my book club for encouraging me to read this one!  I was reluctant to try another Celeste Ng novel after the relentlessly depressing Everything I Never Told You.  This one, however, was entirely different.  It was so beautifully crafted, with the care and devotion and an eye to her art, much like that of Mia’s.  There are wonderful characters, who are messy and quite real, contrary to Mrs. Richardson’s ideal.  Some who seem superficial, but emerge with more depth, and vice versa, much like people in our real lives.  But the plot is what is most gorgeous, with its many sub-plots, taking the story in directions that are unforeseen, often tender, occasionally cringe-worthy, but always engrossing.  I could not put this book down!

And it is deeply meaningful. I will tread carefully because I do not want to spoil for anyone, but I believe the way that both white privilege and class privilege is illuminated is so carefully and poignantly done that it is digestible and accessible to the reader.  There is history and context and explanation, but there is also the story and what actually happens.  So we understand why, but we still understand that it is wrong.  This gives such power to the message.

I loved this book and believe that many of you will also.  This is a MUST READ, for sure!


Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng


Lydia is dead, but no one besides the reader is aware of this at the beginning of the story.  Slowly, as the story unfolds, her life and death is deconstructed and the reader is gradually, almost painfully, let in to the lives of Lydia and her repressed family, and it is understood how Lydia has died.

This well-written but bitterly sad story is probably well worth reading, but it is not easy.  Each of the characters is depicted carefully and thoroughly and there is a psychological depth that makes the characters quite authentic.  There are race issues and longing for acceptance that is very human and almost any reader can relate to this.

What is almost overwhelmingly sad in this book however, is the profound absence of communication between the family members and this is what I find so troubling about this book.  I am not accustomed to this ( there is probably an over-communication issue in my family!) so it was a little extreme/unrealistic in my mind.  I am sure, though, that there are a great many families that have this blockage in communication, whether for cultural or psychological or whatever reason, and this is both scary and tragic for me.  There are so many moments that could have prevented the death of Lydia (and I’m sure in real life, real tragedies) just if there was better communication.  I think this is the take-home message…

So while depressing and tragic, it is a well-written book with a lot to teach us.