This review covers the book Little Fires Everywhere, not the television show based on the book.
Little Fires Everywhere takes place in the wealthy Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights. The Richardson family is seemingly living the American dream. Mrs. Richardson will do anything to protect her delusional fantasies and hide from reality.
As a person who grew up an outcast in a wealthy suburb, I could really relate to the story in Little Fires Everywhere. As an adoptee, the part of the story addressing the baby left at the firehouse was also powerful and thoughtful. Little Fires Everywhere was an outstanding read.
If you haven’t read Little Fires Everywhere and you’re planning to, you may want to stop now. Since the story was so thought-provoking, I need to discuss some of the thoughts I had.
The realism with which Celeste NG discussed the privileges of the white families and their obliviousness to the privileges the color of their skin and wealth conferred was tremendous. The ways their privileges taught them to enact with people who didn’t enjoy those privileges was so well done. My experience, as a person who was never going to be near the clique, was that many in it have no idea how little their status has to do with them. They actually believe much of their success stems from their unnatural effort and talent. In many instances, they see others, whether they know it or not, as there to help perpetuate there unrealistic belief in their having earned their privileged place in society.
The way many in the Richardson family treated Pearl brilliantly exemplified this reality. Lexie had no issue asking Pearl to fraudulently agree the teenage girl having the abortion was Pearl. Trip wanted to screw Pearl all the time, but he needed to hide it from everyone. Even when he kind of liked her, he couldn’t let that reality be known. Mrs. Richardson wanted to give herself credit for helping Pearl and Mia, but only if her help was on her terms.
Sadly Pearl’s willingness to be used by the Richardson children was also an accurate depiction of what too often happens to kids who grow up without the privilege, they will do anything to get tiny benefits from the privileged folks who are willing to use them. When Pearl agreed to pretend she was having the abortion, I had to stop reading. I was so angry. Still, it was a sadly believable part of the story.
While Izzi’s solution to the problem of her family was obviously wrong, I liked her a lot. Izzi was a good representation of the truth that some people in privileged families will, for whatever reason, not be part of the clique. They will recognize it’s absurdity and fight for something more real. In many ways, Izzy was the character I most related to in the story.
I saw a bit of my mom in Mia and Bebe. Like Mia, my mom is an incredibly creative person who works circles around everyone I know. Like Bebe, my mom knew she wasn’t ready to provide for children when she was pregnant. Unlike Mia and Bebe, my mom never got real support. She never met a Mia.
The argument over what should happen with the Chinese baby was also well done. In the end, the court made the decision white judges will almost always make. Love and culture aren’t as important as material provisions. Sure, the white couple loved the baby, but they loved the baby on their terms. They couldn’t love it as a Chinese baby. They had to pretend race doesn’t matter.
Since finding Mom, I have often wondered how I would have turned out had I been raised by someone who wasn’t afraid of my blindness. How different would I be had someone raised me who didn’t see my blindness as something to overcome.
My experience as an adoptee into a family who had no idea how to relate to me and wasn’t that interested in learning how to relate to me made me know the baby should have been given to Bebe. At the end of the day, there is nothing more important than genuine love. It sounds like a cliché, but no materials can replace authentic unconditional love.
Lastly, Mrs. Richardson was a great character. Truthfuly, I hated her. She was such a good representation of the parents I hated when I was in school. Her whole life was a lie based on manipulation and lies. Since she decided to forgo her own happiness to follow the rules she didn’t like, Mrs. Richardson was going to do everything in her power to promote the order. Everyone had to suffer to keep the suffering going. Suffering is what everyonehad to do.
Little Fires Everywhere was truly worth the read. If you like a good family story that makes you think, Little Fires Everywhere will be worth your time too. If you’re interested in pretending the American dream is real, or if you want to believe there ever will be a post-racial America, try reading the story looking for things you wouldn’t normally recognize.