Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

Penguin Random House recently let me choose a few books to review, and I couldn't have been more ecstatic. I'm an avid reader (when I can find the time), so getting sent free books is a dream for me. 

I'll be reviewing a few of them on the blog.

First up is Little Fires Everywhere, by Celest Ng, that I finished a couple of weeks ago. 

Set in the perfect suburbia of Shaker Heights, Little Fires Everywhere starts with a literal fire. But don't be fooled, this is not a fast-paced, lots-of-action type of novel. Little Fires is all about the atmosphere, the little mysteries of one's life, trivial in the big picture, but oh-so-captivating when within the bubble.

We meet the characters, one by one, and are introduced to all the very different and complex personalities by their interactions with each other during a time of change brought by the arrival of a couple of newcomers. 

Two women, surrounded by what seems to be a cloud of mystery, settle in Shaker Heights and will turn the life of the Richardson family upside down. 

I was expecting a very mainstream, easy-to-read women's drama, but I soon found myself captivated by the atmosphere of Shaker Heights, the depth of the characters, and Celeste Ng's ability to make suburban stillness completely enthralling. We explore one character's mysterious past, the motherhood dreams of another, the slight boredom of a working mother of four with a perfectly square life, the unlikely bonds that form here and there, beyond generations or social gaps. 

This book is easy to read, but well-written, full of subtleties and nuances, and aside from a couple of clichés I noted here and there, it is deep without being heavy. There is mystery, about the past but also about the future, there is teenage angst, there is first love, there is heartbreaking adult questioning, and Celeste Ng manages to tell it all with a crispness that makes the book an all-time great novel, and not an ok summer read.

Thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a complimentary copy for review purposes.


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