Celeste Ng grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and plots her story, Little Fires Everywhere in the same town. In between Shaker Heights and her story, Ng attended Harvard University and earned a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Michigan.
While we are talking about her writing chops, this latest book is also a Hulu original series starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.
As for the book, it’s available on Kindle, in paperback, and on Audible. And, you might want to take a look because the story Celeste Ng draws us into is powerful and complicated. The story starts with the nearly idyllic setting of Shaker Heights and Elena Richardson, who we think might be close to a Stepford Wife.
Ng sets a somewhat long and winding road, giving us new hints and grudgingly providing backstory only as it’s needed to justify Elena’s latest movements across town while renting her and her husband’s starter home to a single woman, Mia Warren, and her daughter Pearl. The Richardson family is white. The Warren’s are African American. It shouldn’t matter, but there’s that edge, some confusion on everyone’s part as just how to act without insulting the other, but it still happens.
Pearl goes to school with the four Richardson children and they all get along well enough to visit each other’s homes. The Richardson’s have it all and have never traveled. Pearl has less but has been all over the states as her mother, a photographer and artist goes with the wind.
Well, more certainly she blows against the wind, and we learn both mothers, Mia and Elena have their dark sides, their secrets, and have faced the ferocious pull that motherhood brings.
About the time our many characters settle into their respective roles, a new character arrives who sets the town on its ear. As you may have guessed, this character also tears apart what little friendship there is between the mothers and their children.
I can definitely see the town of Shaker Heights in my mind, and I learned a little (or a little too much) about art and photography, but what the author does so well is present two (sometimes three) well-defined sides to each argument. I didn’t have to agree with one side over another, I just had to understand how each character’s life made them the way they are and made them think what they thought.
This is a fairly detailed, slightly over-the-top view of life, nature versus nurture, and a good read through and through. The book is 347 pages, $9.99 on Kindle.