Sally Flint

Book Review of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

A long haul flight was the perfect time to read Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere in one sitting.

I bought this book at the airport and it kept me entertained for a good chunk of the flight. I read it pretty much in one setting which has to be an accolade for it. I liked rather than loved it, and thought it a good rather than excellent book. It was a page turner with a well formulated and crafted plot, The characters were well developed and original, but I just didn’t care about them enough to really invest. I guess if I’d have been amongst them, in Ohio (the setting of the novel), I would have been a nosey rather than concerned neighbour.

It is a story that uses two families to explore class, wealth and social acceptance. Single mother Mia is a free spirited artist with a secret past who
 works as housekeeper/cleaner for Elena Richardson, mother of the seemingly perfect family. Differences are glossed over until they find themselves on opposing sides when a custody battle develops over the adoption of a Chinese American baby. Motherhood, teen angst, first love and the need to sometimes break rules feature in the story.

Book Discussion Questions for Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Why is the book called Little Fires Everywhere?

How much sympathy do you have for Izzy?

Whose side do you take over the adoption and the ensuing custody court case?

Who in the book do you think is most misunderstood by others?

What qualities does Mia have that makes Izzy so enamoured with her? 

Elena would consider herself to be generous, liberal/broad minded and always prepared to help those less fortunate than herself. Do you agree with this self-evaluation?

Mia and Elena have very different approaches to motherhood? What are their strengths and weaknesses as mothers? With whom do you most identify and why?

What do you think happens to Izzy after the story ends?

The final events of the book are presented in the opening of it? How did this structure influence your reading of the book?

Which charaxcter do you least like and why? 

Do you think Mia handled knowing about Peal’s pregnancy well?

Book Club Discussion Questions for Little Fires Everywhere (If you haven't read the book!)

There are daughters in the story who choose to spend time with a different mother figure to their own mother. Has anything similar happened to you? How did it make you feel?

The book is being made into a TV series. If you were to serialize a novel which book would you choose?

In the story two brothers have feelings for the same girl. How would you deal with this if it happened in your own family? 

In the story Mia thinks she is liberal minded, but arguably doesn’t always demonstrate liberal values. What qualities do you need to have to be ‘liberal minded? If you are amongst good friends have a chat about who amongst you is the most liberal and why.

Celest Ng’s Little Fire’s Anywhere is praised as a book that can be read in one sitting. Would this claim make you want to read a book or would it actually put you off? Why? What does this reveal about your reading habits or even what does this reveal about you?

Would you prefer to live in a village where everyone knows everyone else or a large anonymous city?  

Celeste Ng's second book, Little Fires Everywhere is being serialised. No wonder she is smiling!

Summing Up of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Ending with a touch of arson the book concludes with the reader questioning smug liberalism and asking what really counts in society. I can see why Little Fires is Everywhere was considered one of the best reads of 2017. It took me a little while longer to get round to reading it, but I am glad that I did. There really is a lot in it that could be part of a book group discussion. If you enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere my hunch is that you would also enjoy Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage.

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