09 Aug Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
The fictional Shaker Heights could be any suburb anywhere. The rules, cliques, routines, expectations, and conformity are embodied by Mr. and Mrs. Richardson, who happen to own a duplex they rent out to Mia, a free-spirited artist, and her young daughter, Pearl. Even though mother and daughter are poor, living on the meager earnings of photographs Mia sells, they are depicted as morally superior. Why? Well, they haven’t been stifled by societal expectations. They are real, raw, and untainted by the societal impositions accepted by the Richardsons. Lizzy latches on to Mia and becomes her helper while Lexie finds comfort in Mia’s arms after a particularly difficult situation. Trip and Moody are fascinated by Pearl. Mrs. Richardson is painted in such a harsh light, even though she has played by the rules and created a safe, stable life for her children. This book would have us believe that stability and sacrifice are not good enough. In fact, Mia’s hobo life of insecurity and poverty takes on a moral brilliance, which seems rather romantic, but realistically, it is tragic. I also disliked the careless way one of the teachers was humiliated. Apparently, the teacher was calling on a student who wasn’t grasping the material. The teacher, as an authority figure, had to be mercilessly humiliated for her transgression. The language of this book is beautiful, evocative, and exact. However, it all comes to naught because the reader is pummeled with the author’s preconceived conclusion: Mia’s way is the moral way and Mrs. Richardson’s is the wrong way. Sad that all that work led to this dichotomy. In the end, setting fires doesn’t do anything but enrage the Richardsons and the reader.