Little Fires Everywhere: A False Impression of Perfectionism

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the best selling novel Little Fires Everywhere, written by Celeste Ng. I just recently read it since I’ve been in quarantine. One of the reasons, I’d tell you to read this book is because it’s now a somewhat-still-new-series on Hulu. As someone who’s read the book and watched the series, here’s my take on both of them.

The Setting

The novel takes place in a historic community, located in Ohio, called Shaker Heights. This is where the author was raised from the age of nine. I like how Ng used a real suburb and provided a brief history of the locality, so the reader could better understand the culture that emerged there. Shaker Heights was a meticulously “planned” community. The precinct is strategically designed, from the architecture of each house to the number of acceptable minorities living there.

The Plot

At the start of the story, we’re introduced to Mrs. Richardson, Lexie, Moody, and Trip because they’re on the street watching their house in flames. The story starts at the ending. Of course, readers are going to want to know what happened to their home. It’s a way of luring the reader into the details. Why did it burn down? So we continue reading and find out more about the Richardson family.

There’s a child in the family missing in action. She’s not on the scene watching the firefighters try to retrieve the remaining ashes of what used to be their home. Apparently, she’s the one who started the fire. She’s guilty. It’s Izzy — the reader is lead to believe. I love the way the story begins almost like a mystery of who burnt down the house.

The Richardsons are the typical well-to-do family — privileged with an impeccable reputation that proceeds them. Elena Richardson was born and raised in the Heights and breed on the Shaker culture. The entire town is somehow tight-knit.

Elena, who is refer to as Mrs. Richardson in the narration, has connections within the community. She’s one of the big wigs being that she works for the local paper as a journalist and her husband is a well-respected lawyer. Lexie is the oldest daughter. She’s the classic perky, talkative, teenager, who does her best in school to please her mother. Trip is the eldest son who’s an athlete and eye candy for most of the girls. Moody is the second youngest under Trip. He’s quiet and easy-going most of the time. Lastly, there’s the spark plug, hellraiser daughter Isabell. Besides Izzy, she won’t go by any other name. Against her mother’s wishes, of course. The family has a togetherness about them. A way where they strive for perfection in whatever they do because they have the means to do it. They are the privileged white American dream.

Later on in the narrative, a legal custody battle between a wealthy white family and an illegal Asian mother causes upheaval among every Shaker Heights resident, who has their own opinion about who should gain custody of the misplaced child? The battle is a subplot in the novel that depicts the socioeconomic hardship of a mother who abandoned her baby at a fire station in Cleveland.

I like that discrimination is placed on an Asian minority rather than the Mexican or African American one. It seems the Asian community has been idolized as a less resistant and more adaptable community. Therefore, the novel was successful in unveiling hidden social dilemmas that could happen to any marginalized groups.

Women & Mothers

The narrative personifies motherhood for a few women. One of the most important themes that emerge from Ng’s work was the importance of a woman’s choice. Women, being the ones who carry life inside them, are vital. How will we know when we’re ready to handle the responsibilities of being a parent? Mothers hold the future in there hands when raising a child. How can a mother be perfect? Is the value of a mother based on how much she can provide for her child? The potboiler challenges these questions in an artistic collaboration of women’s issues and how it affects the community.

The Book Vs. The TV Series

There were a few critical aspects put together for television that differed from the novel. For one, Mia was not black in the book. Otherwise, I think the author would’ve noted that. However, Mia was underneath the Richardson family socioeconomically. She depended on them just the same. Mia also didn’t smoke pot in the novel. It’s awful that she’s black and a pothead in the series, but don’t let that ruin it for you.

In the novel, the children didn’t help Izzy in the end and the mother didn’t blame herself in the same way. Also, it was more clear what happened to Izzy after the major incidents where completed. In the series, there were just scenes flashing unclear pictures of what happened next. Although the series did provide the character’s thoughts as a voice-over, the ending of the novel was more thoughtful and heartfelt.

Not A Spoiler

I would say I enjoyed the book more than the series. The series was definitely made for television. I say this because the book provides more details. The novel also has the best flow of the story. The author did great in connecting the story together without leaving the reader behind. Even the sentences are abided together, linking the relationships of the characters and the events in time.

In the book, it was clear that the tables turned for Mrs. Richardson. This is the same woman who supported her friend, Mrs. McCullough (another privileged woman) and judged other women’s parenting abilities. In the end, she felt the type of hurt that she needed to feel to fully understand the severity of losing a child.

Go on and read the book. I don’t want to ruin for you, so I won’t tell you anymore. Overall, I give the novel two thumbs up for realism and fierce eloquence.

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