A house burns to the ground while the family who live in it stand outside and watch. All bar two, that is: the absentees are the father, who is away at work, and the youngest daughter Izzy. Everyone knows it was Izzy who burned the house down, because that’s just like her: ever a wild child, impossible to control, Izzy has been the family’s unpredictable rebel practically since the day she was born.
There’s more to the story than just Izzy and her rebellious nature, though. In Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng weaves together the stories of several different families, exploring important themes such as what it means to be part of a collective, and whether biological ties win out over chosen ones. Towards the end of the book we are also led to explore sociocultural dilemmas alongside important questions of race and belonging.
The characterisation in the book is excellent. While it took me a few pages to settle into the writing style, I was quickly hooked by the descriptions of the protagonists, and Ng masterfully shows her characters’ motivations and feelings throughout the book.
I felt a kinship with Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl, who have spent all of Pearl’s life moving from place to place, sometimes sleeping in a car, never having a space to properly call their own. When they start renting an apartment from Izzy’s mother Elena, Mia promises Pearl that this is it: this is where they’ll stay. Pearl befriends Izzy’s family, in particular her brother Moody, and gradually begins to feel like part of a collective. But of course life can’t be that simple, and as the story moves on things begin to unravel.
As I write this review I’m struck by the number of subplots in the book, which Ng somehow manages to slot in without it seeming at all unnatural. Throughout the novel you’ll meet loads of different characters, and you’ll almost certainly relate to at least one of them. Little Fires Everywhere explores the bounty of human experience through the eyes of a group of people whose lives intertwine in ways few of them could have anticipated.
Definitely recommended; I’ll be keeping an eye out for more books by Celeste Ng.
Little Fires Everywhere is published by Little, Brown and is available to buy in hardback from the 9th of November, priced £16.99
I received a free copy of an advance proof from the publisher in exchange for a review. In reality it’s difficult to tell if this affected my view of it because arguably we’re all affected by every experience we have, but suffice it to say I’ve trashed review copies I haven’t liked in the past, so I doubt it makes enough of a difference to skew my viewpoint on it.