In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours 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 teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When the Richardsons' friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia's.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.
TW: abortion, slut shaming (which is challenged by another character)
I honestly expected this to be a five star book for me because of how many raving reviews there are of Little Fires Everywhere online. However, it didn't meet those expectations for me. But that doesn't mean it was a bad book.
First, the characters. I honestly think the characters are my biggest problem because they're the weakest part of the story. And I am a reader who thrives with character driven stories. I didn't have any interest or connection with the characters at all. I found Izzy to be the most interesting character, but because we don't get as much of her I felt myself bored with the characters. I don't feel like we got enough of the characters to really know them and like the plot, it felt like we only really got to know the characters at a surface level.
The plot itself was interesting enough, but it felt almost like reading an article than reading a story at times. I didn't feel any emotion while reading the story, even when at times I should. I just didn't find it to be particularly engaging or addictive. Honestly, the size of the book is what kept me reading. Every time I put it down I struggled picking it up, but the size had me thinking It's so short, I may as well finish it. So I did. On one hand I am happy I did because the court case got interesting when it comes to a lot of important topics I will talk about in a moment. But at the same time, the ending made the story feel pointless. I didn't feel like the ending was satisfying at all to the story. Especially when it came to the Chinese baby's adoptive parents.
I think this book tackles a lot of different important themes and topics. Without going into much detail because of spoilers, I think a lot of these topics were handled really well. Topics such as the privileges that come with class and race, discussions of when it comes to educating adopted kids of their biological cultures and heritages, abortion, and other important subtopics that branch off these larger ones. I thought it was thought provoking and I enjoyed that aspect of the story, especially with it being set in the late nineties where societies were not as progressive as we are now (not to say we don't have a long way to go).
The writing was okay. Like I said above I wasn't engaged with the characters and the plot partially had me interested so when it came to those aspects of the writing I found it lacking. Especially since I found some chunks of the story slower and even kind of boring at times. The fact that the book was only about 330 pages is honestly what kept me pushing through.
Overall, I think this book and the author's writing style just wasn't my cup of tea. I appreciated the thought provoking important topics that had me mulling over a lot (and discussing with my fiancé) when I wasn't reading the book, but I just think I either picked it up at the wrong time or this book isn't a good fit for me. However, if the synopsis sounds interesting or if you hear the amazing things about it that I have heard and it sparks your interest I say give it a try. From all of the five star reviews online my opinion is obviously not the popular one. If you end up picking it up (or you have already) I hope you enjoy!