Saturday, February 24, 2018

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This was a really interesting book about family dynamics, class divides and the long lasting impact of secrets.

The Richardson family lives in Shaker Heights, "America's original planned community", a staid suburb of Cleveland that has rules about everything from the colour paint you can use to the placement of trees.  The family matriarch, Elena, who was born and raised in Shaker Heights likes nothing more than to live by those rules.  She only left to go to college where she met her husband, a successful lawyer, and then returned to have four children in rapid succession and to work part time as a reporter for a community newspaper (where she only covers "feel good" stories).

Elena inherited a duplex from her parents which she rents out at reduced rents as her own effort to help those in need.  Her latest upstairs tenants are Mia, a single mother, and her daughter Pearl.  All four of the Richardson children become drawn to the tenants.  Moody, the second youngest, is Pearl's age and he initially befriends her, then falls in love with her.  But he has competition from his older brother, Troy, who has caught Pearl's attention.  The oldest daughter, Lexie, seems to befriend Pearl, but in fact uses her with ultimately disastrous consequences.  The youngest, Izzy, who is the black sheep of the family is drawn to Mia, who is a wandering artist whose life has been the polar opposite of Izzy's structured mother's.

When friends of the Richardson's adopt a Chinese American baby, it pits Elena against Mia and causes Elena to dig into Mia's past.  What she finds, and the incorrect assumptions she makes, have consequences for everyone involved and tear apart her own family in ways she could never have predicted.

I don't want to give away more of the plot as it was expertly woven by the author and, while I would not describe the book as a thriller per se, knowing more about it would destroy the enjoyment of watching the story unfold as you go.

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