Wednesday, November 01, 2017

First Wedneday Book Club: LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng


This was peculiar book for me. Although I read it very quickly, easily and with pleasure, it had many oddities. It wasn't until the book was half over, that its real topic emerged: the adoption of Asian babies by American couples. And the problems of surrogate mothers as well. And because the topic arises late, it leaves most of the characters lurching for their place. Characters I had begun to be interested in in the first half, barely surfaced in the second.

It is also a story of mothers and daughters. A major figure is identified mostly by her surname. Why?
And if the first half addresses privilege, the second half leaves this behind and hones in on other non-character based issues too often. It's as if, Ng becomes bored with her clever social satire and reaches for a deeper tone.

The plot mostly concerns the intersection of a self-satisfied Shaker Heights family with a single mother and her daughter. The single mother is an artist who begins to clean for the family. The daughter forms relationships with all of the family's kids. But as I said earlier, most of this goes out the window in the second half.

I kept thinking that if this book was reordered and told from the single mother's POV, it would have been a stronger story. But you can find lots of reviews who had no problem with the story. So maybe it's just me. Certainly it is a well-written, thoughtful book. Just a little short of memorable characters. Too many of them never come alive.

You can find more reviews at Barrie Summy's place. 

8 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Thanks, as ever, for your candor, Patti. I do keep hearing good things about this one; haven't decided yet if I'll read it.

Lucy said...

Not sure if this would be for me but appreciate your thoughtful review of it. Thanks.

Stacy Nyikos said...

Thanks for the insightful review. I recently read Lucky Boy, which is also about adoption and illegal aliens from Mexico. If you like Ng's theme, but were disappointed in the writing, you may like this one better. I really enjoyed it. Lots of good social questions that are consistently addressed and woven into the story throughout.

Linda McLaughlin said...

I see why you called the book peculiar. It's possible for a book to be well-written but poorly plotted and that seems to be the case here. odd how we both ended up reading about children adopted from other countries this month.

Thanks for the honest review.

Sarah Laurence said...

I enjoyed the author's debut but wasn't sure about her second one, especially after reading your thoughtful review. Thanks!

Barrie said...

I've read some other reviews of this book. I've been looking forward to your review. I think I'll read this author's debut first. Thank you!

troutbirder said...

I need a good and clearly developed plot though. Thanks for your clear review...:)

Jenn Jilks said...

A good review. I appreciate your point of view!