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Little Fires Everywhere: 05/22/20

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is set in Shaker Heights near Cleveland. It was a village built to be a suburb for Cleveland, one of the nation's first.

The book opens with one of these idyllic houses burning to the ground, set fire by one of its residents. The remainder of the book is the unwinding of events to point to what could drive a suburban family to such extremes.

The event that changed everything, that set the dominoes to fall, was the arrival of Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl. They are renting one of the upstairs apartments in the homes that are duplexes made to look like one. Mia is an artist.

The next event is the attempted adoption of a Chinese baby. When it falls apart and results in a custody battle, Mia ends up in the middle of things.

I'm not a fan of narratives that start with a dramatic event and then rewind. This story telling approach reeks of padding. Why not just let the characters do their thing and let the reader guess at what's coming? Putting the big event front and center gives the story nowhere else to go.

Although there isn't much movement in this novel beyond the ebb and flow of suburbia, Little Fires Everywhere does sit on the road narrative spectrum. As it deals with family dynamics, the travelers are families (33). As most of the action takes place in different houses, the destination is home (66). The route are the roads the define Shaker Heights, which for this spectrum count as blue highways (33). All together this novel is about families, their homes and the roads that connect them.

Three stars

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