During this time of year, we start to see “Best Books of the Year” lists pop up all over. Today, I am recommending a book that is already at the top of many of these lists—Little Fires Everywhere, the sophomore novel by Celeste Ng—a complex story that examines the themes of loyalty and betrayal, and at its heart, asks the question “Do the faults of our past determine what we deserve in the future?”
Shaker Heights is a wealthy suburb of Cleveland, Ohio—and the town where the author grew up. As a planned utopian community, Shaker Heights was advertised by developers as a place that “includes protection forever against depreciation and unwelcome change”—but change is exactly what happens to the Richardson family’s seemingly happy life when Mia Warren, a bold and mysterious artist, and her smart, shy teenage daughter Pearl move in to a rental home owned by Elena and William Richardson.
The story begins in 1997 as Izzy—the outcast teenage daughter of the Richardson family, is blamed for setting “little fires everywhere” in her family’s home, essentially burning it to the ground. From here, the author leads us back in time, to introduce us to Elena Richardson—a wife and mother of four who has always played by the rules. Elena observes a disregard for the status quo in the way that her tenant, Mia Warren lives her life. She is both fascinated and suspicious of Mia’s lifestyle. Elena becomes obsessed with exposing the secrets of Mia’s past when close friends of the Richardson family become entangled in a custody battle that divides the Shaker Heights community.
Delving into the ways in which identities are forged and how families are tested, this novel has been described as wry, engrossing, heartrending, unsparing, and original—It is a definite must-read for the New Year.
Check out Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, and other thought-provoking novels like it at the Sioux City Public Library.
Support for Check It Out comes from Avery Brothers.