“You’ll always be sad about this,” Mia said softly. “But it doesn’t mean you made the wrong choice. It’s just something that you have to carry.”
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Published by Perigee Books, 2017
Indiana’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars Pete’s Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: We won’t be picking this one up again.
Indiana: When our book club first picked Little Fires Everywhere I was glad to have an excuse to read it. Last year it seemed like it was everywhere, not just all over the WordPress community but social media. Unfortunately, it seems like all too often we pick up a book that everyone is reading or wants to read and are disappointed. This one wasn’t all that different.
Pete: These smash-hit books just never go over well with me. I had heard a lot of people say they disliked this one because it was too boring, and though I tried to temper that expectation going in, I felt the same way. The first 70-ish pages are so aggressively ordinary that I felt like I was listening to an acquaintance ramble on about the drama in their family—only I didn’t have an excuse to slip out of the conversation, because I often feel obligated to make it through book club books.
Indiana: Well, the first page is exciting because there’s a house on fire and everyone is wondering who did it and blaming it on this black sheep character. All of that seems to be forgotten in chapter two and for many of the other chapters. Ng alludes to fires through various metaphors several times, as the title would indicate, but the main fire isn’t brought up again until the very end.
Pete: I would have liked a few “flash-forwards” to the present just to remind the reader that the fire is the book’s focus. There is truly no conflict aside from teenage squabbles until around page 150. I just felt like I was reading about a collection of very uneventful lives. The conflict that arises, like almost everything in this book, has to do with a baby who is not with her birth mother. I jokingly called this book “Little Babies Everywhere” when we first started it, but by the end of the book, I was astounded at the sheer quantity of babies in this story.
Indiana: There are many babies. Or almost babies. Maybe there can be a premium edition in the future called Little Babies Everywhere. However, I did think the conflict between the mother who wanted her baby back and the family who adopted it was ethically interesting. At least it was something in the book that we actually wanted to discuss and found ourselves internally grappling with.
Pete: That conflict was really the only part that intrigued me. Otherwise, there didn’t seem to be anything in this book that I hadn’t seen somewhere else. It was fine. The plot made sense, though it was extremely predictable, but there was just nothing in this book for me. I should add that the only character I was able to like even a little bit was Trip. The others were too nasty or dumb.
Indiana: Trip wasn’t that great, but in comparison to the others I guess he was fine. How did you feel about the way that the author left things open at the end? And the way that she had the “black sheep” characters mirror each other.
Pete: The ending was fine. I wasn’t really interested in what happened to the Richardsons after the fire. I suppose the mirrored character arcs was somewhat interesting… I don’t know. This book made me feel nothing. I put it down and thought to myself, “Okay.”
Indiana: Well, I’m glad it wasn’t any longer then. Maybe someday we’ll pick up one of the top selling books and love it. Just maybe.