Fortunately for Celeste Ng, that’s not a problem with her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere. It’s a terrific, poignant story that I recommend to you highly.
Ng is more ambitious in this novel than in her first, developing more story lines and a range of important characters, but it all comes together masterfully.
The book opens with the burning down of the Richardsons’ home in Shaker Heights, a planned community not far from Cleveland. But this isn’t an accidental fire. In fact, it is set by the Richardsons’ youngest child, Izzy. And this isn’t a spoiler; it’s all laid out in the opening of the novel.
The rest of the novel backs up and lays out the relationships, events, and characters that lead Izzy to take the drastic step of setting her own family’s home on fire (lighting multiple fires in her siblings’ bedrooms).
As with Ng’s first novel, it’s set a few decades ago in white-bread America, but deals with how that community treats outsiders–those with less financial resources, those of other races, those without privilege.
It’s a novel about family, about identity, about the definition of motherhood, about support and betrayal. It’s a wonderful domestic drama that I suggest you read right away. I am looking forward to whatever Ng writes next!