Little Fires Everywhere is the second book written by Celeste Ng, originally published in 2017. It follows two families: the Richardsons with their four children and the single mother and daughter who moved into the house the Richardsons were renting. Their relationships start mixing with each other's, twisting and intertwining. Secrets are born and old ones get unravelled. The culmination of this story happens when a friend of the Richardsons' attempts to adopt a Chinese-American baby, which is proceeded by a custody battle that dramatically divides the town of Shaker Heights.
Having previously read and enjoyed Ng's previous book - Everything I Never Told You, I went in this one with fairly high expectations and was frankly not disappointed. Although I was a bit confused at the beginning, as the story started unravelling, I got a grasp of what was going on and approximately of what was going to happen. Although I have around 50 pages left, I had to start writing my opinions and impressions this book has left me so far, since I need to get something off my chest. There might be mild spoilers, but I will try to keep them brief.
The book: its perks, flaws and my opinion
The book manages to captivate one's attention well, it gets you sucked into the story once you get the hang of it and is actually quite hard to let go of once you start reading it and understanding it, which I was not expecting for a literary fiction. The first half of the book was mostly filled with explanations of how the lives of the two families started to intertwine and I must say that most of the characters, if not all of them, kind of have a similar voice. For example, I would not be able to differentiate which one of the kids was talking if their names hadn't been written after the sentences. And that might be the main reason why I do not have a favourite character or one that I sympathised or liked the most. Perhaps Izzy was the most distinctive out of them all, but she did not really even talk that much. At first, I was kind of apprehensive of Mia, but as we got to experience her back story and read about the hardships she had endured, I started to like her more. And she was definitely a good mother to Pearl and was able to help Lexie during her hard times.
Race and how it is implemented
Now about the second half of the story: the custody battle. I must come forth and say that I believe the baby should stay with the McCulloughs and I do not believe that the race was well implemented in this story. A child's well being, safety and certainty of staying alive are far more important than its culture. All the issues the opposing attorney brought up against Linda McCullough during her testimony were so blatantly obnoxious.
Firstly, a few months old baby is not capable of understanding the term culture. All it does is eat and cry and may have some health problems that should be dealt with properly. The McCulloughs have both the money and the love that will promise the baby a great life. Whereas, Bebe, the baby's biological mother, could assure that it is met with its culture properly, but can NOT take care of it, as it was seen when she left it at the fire station. No matter the dolls that the baby could have or the books that could be read to her, they still would not matter at all or just a little bit, since she is still so young. But when she ages a bit, the McCulloughs said that they would try their best to make her aware of her culture. If that doesn't happen, then they should be held accountable. But if she went with her biological mother, she maybe could not have been able to live long enough to enjoy her culture. Race is not the most important thing and blood doesn't make a family - love does!
The ending (spoilers)
Regarding the custody battle, I was happy that Linda and her husband won the guardianship over Mirabelle, however, I am also satisfied with the ending: the biological mother, Bebe, broke into the McCulloughs house and stole the baby... It sounds extremely wrong, but as Linda deduced in the book: if the baby did not feel the need to cry during the time it was being taken, maybe it did indeed see Bebe as her only real mother. The McCulloughs decided to adopt another Chinese baby and this storyline, I believe got wrapped up fairly well.
Another thing that happens is that Mia and Pearl moved away, without Pearl being able to say goodbye to the others. It was kind of sad. But also, Izzy set her house on fire... that happened. And then she ran away. I get that the only person she could confide in - Mia, was gone, but also that was a bit of an overstatement - to burn down your house. But I guess that was the advice she got, to start over, and to do that, she had to do something I believe she had wanted to for a long time. It was quite the cinematic ending.
The TV show: similarities and differences
I want to start by saying that the show is quite well cast, Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington are two very strong leads. The actors and actresses for the kids did also quite an amazing job. I have to say that Izzy was my favourite in the show. I sympathised the most with her and I also felt extremely bad for the way she was being treated. I was especially disappointed in the way she was treated by her siblings, always as an outcast, even in the books. No wonder she took solace in Mia, who seemed as though the only one that could understand her. Although I did prefer Mia in the book, since in the show, she seemed to me a bit stand-offish and maybe a little annoying.
Some other things that irked me in this TV adaptation was the father - Bill Richardson. I am not quite sure why, but maybe because of his constant 'hon', which he used at everyone and he just seemed a lot less invested in his family or the story in whole. The book version of Bill I found a bit more intelligent and interesting. Another thing I remarked that I was not the biggest fan of was how unwell the era of the 90's was depicted. If it hadn't said that the story revolved around that period, I would have guessed that it was set in modern age, with the exception of phones.
Regarding how similar it is to the book, I would say that it managed to capture all the main plots of the book well and portray them competently. Except for the ending, but I liked how it takes a different route instead of following the exact same footsteps of the book.
Which one you should devote your attention to next?
It took me less time to finish the book rather than the TV show, which does not happen quite often. Although I enjoyed the TV show a lot, especially the last few episodes, I believe that the book did a better job of depicting the story line. I loved all of the performances by the actors and I enjoyed the several paths that it took that differed from the book. The end is different in the show. but I still enjoyed it and felt that it made sense. Overall, it is a story that can be well experience both by reading it on page and by watching it on screen and it is surely one that will stick with me for a long time. But if I would have to recommend you one or the other, I would recommend you to read the book!