Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Review of the winner of the Help Me contest

As I'm sure you all recall, Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng, was the book in my TBR pile that got the most votes (5).  So I read it.  And as I'm sure you all also know, I wasn't a big fan of Celeste's 1st book, Everything I Never Told You.  So I went into this one with a tad bit of trepidation.  Well, I'm happy to report that I definitely liked LFE better than EINTY.

Here's what it's about:

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned - from the layout of the winding roads to the colors of the houses to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren - an enigmatic artist and single mother - who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter, Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons.  Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants:  all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair.  But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town - and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past.  But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Let me start by telling you that this book talks about important things, like adoption, abortion, and surrogacy.  My only real criticism is that it took Celeste too long to get to these issues.  I know an author oftentimes has to lead up to what she wants to say.  But I would have enjoyed the book even more if she had started sooner.

Since I led with what disappointed me, let me now tell you what I liked about the book:

1.  There are not a bunch of clunky similes, which I didn't think was so true of her 1st one.  In fact, here's a quote from my review of book #1: "The author overuses similes, IMHO.  It got to be so frequent that they actually jumped off the page and smacked me.  This was definitely NOT the case with LFE.
2.  On page 75, the youngest Richardson, Izzy, connects with Mia.  I really enjoyed their relationship.
3.  The book is very well-written.  Here are a couple of examples:
Referring to a teenager:  "He seemed embarrassed, too, as if he had just revealed a fondness for a very uncool TV show."
"The silence seemed to stretch itself out like taffy."
4.  There is one passage about Mia's talkative work friend that I strongly agree with:  "Mia shared very little in return, but she'd learned over the year that people seldom noticed this, if you were a good listener - which meant you keep the other person talking about herself."  Have you ever noticed that most people are quite content to talk about themselves? Pay special attention to those who ask you the 2nd question.  These are the people that are interested in you.
5.  One personal note:  The book starts with a big house fire.  We had one of those back in 1996.  Reading about this one brought back tons of memories.  Not fun!

So, all in all, I enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere.  I didn't have much of an emotional reaction to it.  And the ending was not my favorite.  But I still rated it a 3.5/4.  I obviously liked it quite a bit.  So thanks to all for recommending it to me.


  1. I can imagine This is Us was hard for you to watch, as well.
    I look forward to reading this one. Thanks for the review!

    1. It's going in the mail tomorrow!
      And, yes, it was hard to watch, especially for Joni. Thanks for the comment.

  2. I was let down by the ending too so I'm kind of glad to know someone else was as well.

  3. I love stories where someone comes in an upsets the established routine. As to the set up, that is really hard to determine. I've been reading more of Margaret Atwood, and sometimes I think she'll never get where she wants to go. I wonder if our short attention span (social media schizophrenia)is the enemy for readers and writers.

    1. It's tough to say. But I feel like more and more people are reading/listening to books. In my meanderings throughout the area, I don't know if I've ever seen such enthusiasm for reading. But, then again, I don't have a finger on the pulse for the younger generations like you do. I hope they get it as they get older.