My honest thoughts after reading Little Fires Everywhere
There are always going to be books that disappear under the radar. For me, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng was one of them. As soon as I heard it was being transformed into a Hulu Original, I made sure to order a copy of the book and get reading.
It took a while for the copy to reach me thanks to the lockdown in Canada. However, I’ve got it, read it, and am ready to share my thoughts. Now I’ve read it after watching the show, but these are two versions of the same story that you need to keep separate.
There is a lot added into the show that isn’t in the books. This is something to keep in mind as you go through the various story threads for the character. I won’t touch on the changes in this Little Fires Everywhere review and instead focus on the novel.
Constantly changing character viewpoint
Most books will opt for either one character viewpoint throughout or make a conscious decision to change the viewpoint of the characters with each chapter. And it’s clear which viewpoint you’re looking at the story from as the chapters start.
That’s not the case with Little Fires Everywhere. The character viewpoints change within the chapters. In fact, they change within paragraphs at time. You can start reading from Eleanor’s thoughts and then find yourself jumping to Izzy’s or Mia’s thoughts.
At times, I found this off-putting. It took some time for me to get used to the storytelling. In a way, it was a good thing, though. I had to really pay attention to the story, knowing whose viewpoint I was switching to and when. But at times, it meant I was left wondering about the original viewpoint; the original character. We didn’t always get to know more about the original character’s thoughts on the same matter.
In some cases, the switches between the viewpoints meant we really only just scratched the surface on some of the characters. I didn’t get to know too much about Moody or Trip. Izzy’s character needed more time to flesh out. Pearl and Lexie got a little better treatment, but I still don’t feel I got to know them all that well.
The story was mostly about Eleanor and Mia. Even then, I’m not sure I really got Mia’s personality down. Maybe it didn’t help that I was looking out for the personality I saw on the show. That wasn’t completely there. Mia didn’t seem all that defensive, although I still questioned how she couldn’t accept that other people had different viewpoints to her. Mia is one of those characters you’re either going to like or not.
A quick read
Despite the changing viewpoints slowing down my reading speed, it was still a relatively quick read. This is a book that took me about a week to get through—although I admit that I can read between 50 and 100 pages per night depending on how engrossed I am with the book and whether I’ve remembered to charge my book light!
If you’re someone who gets engrossed quickly and devours books, this may not be for you. You’ll probably get through it within a couple of days, if even that! If I read as much as I did in university, I’d have finished this book within 48 hours easily, possibly even 24 depending on the day!
While it’s an interesting book, there isn’t a huge plot. The main focus is on the lives of the people of Shaker and Pearl and Mia looking at life as people from the outside. They’re getting to know Shaker Heights, a town that the residents are proud of. They’re also trying to do what they feel is right, especially when it comes to Mia.
However, there’s one thought throughout the book: who started the fire. We know right away that it’s likely Izzy. She is the only one who isn’t at the house and doesn’t have a clear location. Lexie, Trip, and Moody all know where they were and arrive home, along with Mr. Richardson. Eleanor was the only one in the house, asleep. There isn’t really a mystery in the way that it could have been had some of the start of the book been kept to the end.
I just didn’t feel as invested as I could in the mystery behind the house fire. Was that on purpose? It’s something that I was invested in with the show, so it feels odd that it would purposely be a brush-away point in the book, especially when it starts the whole story!
The one benefit is that the book offers a clear-cut storyline. We know who started the fire, we know that one of the Richardson children has run away, and we know what’s happened to Mia and Pearl. The show left some of this open, allowing for Little Fires Everywhere Season 2 if there is a determined story there. The book does leave some elements open to return to the story if Celeste Ng wants to, but a sequel isn’t necessary.
If you loved the show or you’ve been thinking about watching the show, I’d recommend reading the book. It gives you a look at the town of Shaker and there’s a little more focus on the thoughts and feelings through the child custody case. However, it does feel like it only scratches the surface.
Star rating: 3.5 out of 5.
What did you think of Little Fires Everywhere? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Little Fires Everywhere is available with two-day free shipping with Amazon Prime.