Book Review

Little Fires Everywhere


I read Celeste Ng’s first book, Everything I Never Told You, and, while I didn’t love it, I thought it was good.  I bought this new one, Little Fires Everywhere, because the author has become something of a darling in literary circles, and I like to know what that is about.

Yes, I thought it was good.  Again, though, I didn’t love it.

I loved the focus on family dynamics and the juxtaposition of siblings.

And I loved the writing style.  The author’s prose is crisp and clear.  It isn’t necessarily lyrical, though possibly because the setting is the planned, controlled community of Shaker Heights, Ohio.  The writing style seemed to match that orderly existence.

My problem was the pacing.  The first hundred pages were slow for me.  Yes, they set up the coming story.  Too often, though, I was frustrated, wondering where Ms. Ng was headed and when, for Pete’s sake, she would get there.  The story picked up for me when I hit a stretch of one character’s story.  Then it raced on.  After a slow opening, and engrossing middle, the ending actually felt too fast.

I did like the characters – not love, but like – except for one.  I did not, could not understand the behavior of the mother toward her youngest child.  Her snappishness allowed the other three siblings to be unkind, exacerbating a problem in a teenager whose behavior was pivotal to the plot.

If you can move past that, Little Fires Everywhere may work better for you than it did for me.

Yup.  Good book.  Not great.  But good.


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