Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere by [Ng, Celeste]

I cannot get this story out of my head. The intricacies of the characters’ relationships, the depth of emotion, the shattering of lives left me with an urge to dive into the novel and sort everyone out. If you’d just mind your own business, I screamed in my head, If you only knew. A vivid depiction of the importance of knowing the facts before acting and then asking yourself, “Is this any of my business?”


In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.






What are they? Why are they kept?

The things we’re embarrassed about, the things we’re ashamed of, the things we’re afraid of, the things we hold most dear—these are perhaps our most guarded secrets. Do we ever share them? And if so, with whom?

We have to trust to share our secrets. We know how people gossip, how perilous our secret might be if shared with the wrong person. This prompts us to stay away from family and friends; to share instead with the stranger sitting beside us on the plane, the one we meet in passing, sitting like us, alone in the restaurant. They don’t know us. They will likely forget our story moments after having heard it as it has no significance for them. Or they may remember it as unique and retell it; with no harm to us as we are the stranger they will never see again.

Some secrets are cherished and nourish our souls. Some carry a heavy burden. Some, we eventually reveal, others we carry to the grave.

Are secrets more prevalent in this time of constant bombardment via our modern technology? Because our lives are so busy, often with little time for introspection, or daydreaming, or sitting alone in silence, do we keep some things to ourselves just to have a “life” of our own, to have a bit of privacy, a sense of mystery. “Ah, ha! Here’s something you don’t know about me.”

I was once asked, “Why all the secrets in your book? What is the significance to your life?

The question gave me pause, made me think. I came to the conclusion that I like the idea of secrets because, as a working mother and a teacher/principal, my life was always so full of people. I loved that and I loved my job, but a bit of me wished for more—I wanted the mystery, the “ah, ha” feeling that I referred to above.

Do I have secrets? Yes. Will I carry some of them to the grave? Yes.

And you?