Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Best Paige In The Book (and Series!) Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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Y'all finals are FINALLY over! I finished my exams last week, so now I'm taking it easy while I wait for virtual graduation. With this new-found freedom, I'm looking forward to getting back to blogging, reading, crocheting, and all of my other pursuits that had to be put on the back burner. One of the many carrots I dangled in front of my face to motivate myself to finish was getting to watch the finale of Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng was one of the first books I read during quarantine, but I wanted to wait on writing a review until I made it through the series as well. I am so excited to write this review because both the book and the series were phenomenal!

The storyline is centered around two families: the Richardsons, a wealthy upper middle class family of 6, and the Warrens, a nomadic mother-daughter duo. Mia Warren is a photographer with a mysterious past who is looking for inspiration and a place for her daughter, Pearl, to finish high school. When Mia and Pearl come to Shaker Heights, Ohio with all their worldly possessions held inside Mia's VW Rabbit, they rent a house from Elena Richardson, the picture-perfect matriarch of the Richardson household. Elena was born and raised in Shaker Heights, and she embodies all of its values: perfection, harmony, and order. She followed the rules, went to a nearby private college, got married to a man who became a lawyer, had 4 kids, and lives in a nice house in an affluent neighborhood. As Mia and Elena's lives become more and more intertwined through their kids, friends, and involvements around town, the picturesque, orderly facade starts to chip away. Mia's secrets become unraveled, Elena's carefully cultivated lifestyle begins to crumble, the lives of each woman's children become complicated, and the idyllic Shaker Heights utopia is shaken by a major court case that divides the town.

Little Fires Everywhere brings so many topics into discussion: motherhood and family, the impact of secrets, growth and identity, and whether following the rules and "doing everything you're supposed to" really matters. Celeste Ng brings single parents, adoptive families, and biological families into the story and allows the reader to understand what motherhood looks like from all different perspectives. From the mother who has a color-coded calendar to the mother who suffers from infertility to the mother who gave her child an unconventional life, the choices and mistakes each mother makes highlight the difficult job that mothers have in raising children as well as caring for themselves along the way. Ng weaves in backstories for her characters that highlight the choices her characters made that led them to their present-day lives. Additionally, each character harbors their own secrets that threaten to change the lives of themselves and those around them. Choosing to follow the rules or violate social norms also presents an interesting addition to the narrative, particularly when there isn't a clear right or wrong answer. Despite being set in the late '90s, Little Fires Everywhere raises so many discussions that are relevant even today.

The storyline of this work is so captivating. While parts of the novel were a bit slow, they set the stage for more explosive parts later on. Ng, a native of Shaker Heights in real life, portrays life in northeast Ohio SO well! After spending the first 18 years of my own life in northeast Ohio, swearing I'd never come back, and somehow managing to be stuck here until further notice due to COVID-19, I can 100% vouch for the accuracy of her portrayal of both the town and its citizens. Ng's characters emulate so many of the people I went to high school with as well as their parents and extended families. She acquaints her reader with her characters in the present, then weaves in backstories that alter what the reader thought their perception of each character was. None of the characters are blameless, but readers can also understand what led the characters made the choices they did (even if some characters' choices make more sense than others). The ended was revealed at the beginning of the book, but the reader still feels like they're left at a major cliffhanger at the end. While I would have loved some closure to the story, I feel like the ending forces readers to think about the topics addressed rather than simply tie it up with a bow and forget about it.

Book Rating: ★★★★

I didn't start the series until after I had read the book. I figured it would be like most literary works adapted to movies or shows: entertaining, but you get more from the book. Boy, was I WRONG! I even found myself unsure of how things would end as I watched from week to week. I was able to binge the first 4 episodes straight since I tuned in after the series started, but the last 4 episodes required an agonizing week-to-week wait for the next episode. Elena was played by Reese Witherspoon and Mia was played by Kerry Washington. They both deserve awards for how well they brought their characters to life. Tiffany Boone played a younger Mia, and her embodiment of the character was a flawless mirror to the character Kerry Washington introduced. The acting in this series was incredible. Some parts of the storyline were altered, but I think it added a richness and depth to the narrative. The series also addressed sexuality and identity in a way that the book didn't address. Being able to see the emotions played out added so much to the story as well. Books may describe feelings, but seeing pain, joy, or concern on screen strikes a different chord. Overall, the acting and storyline in the series were absolutely perfect and did the book so much justice.

Series Rating: ★★★★★

I cannot recommend this book and series enough! They spark so many important discussions, and the storyline is incredible! If you haven't read the book yet, I urge you to read it ASAP. You can buy the book in hardcopy or via the Kindle app here. The series is available on Hulu. It was hands-down the best binge I've had all through quarantine. Let me know what you think!

Make today the best page yet!

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  1. Wow, I am surely going to give this a read :D

  2. Oh wow I love the premise of this book and the fact that the entire series remains just as strong definitely makes it sound like an incredible read. The combination of characters sounds really intriguing - great review!

  3. Great review, I'm definitely going to have to add this to my must read list. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I just read the book last week and it was amazing! A very interesting story, with so many interwoven challenges from each character. And you're right, all the themes mentioned are still so prevalent today. I will have to check out the series now!

    1. The series was so good! I definitely recommend checking it out!