If you are a lover of fiction, you probably can guess where this post is heading, but for those who need to be caught up, Little Fires Everywhere is a Novel written by Celeste Ng. When it was published in 2017, everyone raved about the Novel and since then there were talks about making it into a show. Hulu delivered with its own Little Fires Everywhere Original Series, in early 2020.
For as much love and praise the book received, when I received it as a Christmas present, I couldn’t wait to devour every last page. I started and quickly found I was disappointed. For me the book just didn’t work and set my soul ablaze. A year or so later, Hulu announced it would be making a series with the first season being based off the book. My first thought, “I hope they tell it better.”
Let’s break down all the ins and outs; ups and downs of Little Fires Everywhere and find out:
What lead to the burning of the Richardson family’s home? More importantly who did it?
In September of 2007, Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You, release her second novel. Published by Penguin Press, the 338 page long contemporary piece of literally fiction was plucked off the shelves with anticipating fingers. Little Fires Everywhere praised with the honor of an instant New York Times Bestseller and was nominated for ‘Best of the Best’ in 2018 and win multiple highly renowned book rewards in the eyes of bibliophile.
- Amazon’s Best Novel of 2017
- Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction (2017)
- Book of the Month’s, Book of the Year Award (2017)
- NAACP Image Award for Fiction (2018)
- Best Book of the Year by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Entertainment Weekly, Guardian, Buzzfeed, Esquire, Washington Post, and more.
Set in the 1990’s, Elena Richardson watches her house burn to the ground as we are sent back in time to when two families intertwine, before any houses where on fire. Mia Warren and her daughter, Pearl just arrived to Ohio and have decided move into the Richardson’s rental home located in Shaker Heights, Cleveland.
When Mia excepts a job as ‘house manager’ by Elena Richardson she finds Pearl hanging around with the Richardson kids. After Pearl starts spending all her time with Moody and the others; Mia clings to a co-worker, Bebe Chow, is dead set on finding her baby she left on the doorstep of a fire hall months ago. Mia dedicates to spend time and effort to helping Bebe find her lost child.
One day while working at the house, Elena reveals that a neighboring couple and friends of hers, the McCullough’s are celebrating the one year birthday of their adopted, Chinese baby. Mia does some digging of her own to discovers the baby is in fact Bebe Chow’s. Elena and Mia find themselves on opposite sides of a custody battle.
As tensions grow, Elena’s relationship with her youngest daughter, Lizzy is on the verge of shattering. When Mia quits working for the Richardson’s she forces Pearl to stay away from the kids and is never to go to the house again.
The deeper you find yourself in each character’s lives the more secrets and twists are revealed. Tensions will cause relationships to go up in literal flames. Past and present decisions will rupture their futures.
“It was like training yourself to live on the smell of an apple alone, when what you really wanted was to devour it, to sink your teeth into it and consume it, seeds, core, and all.”Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere
- There are some really well written moments, placed casually throughout the novel.
- Every character is intertwined creating relationships but also causing conflict.
- The plot was well developed and presented strong character stories
- Every individual story lead into a bigger picture.
- No information was pointless but instead tied into a characters story.
“Rules existed for a reason: if you followed them, you would succeed; if you didn’t, you might burn the world to the ground.”Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere
- Character development weak.
- Although each character had a lot going on in their lives, their development as people lacked.
- The story drags on in points because we don’t see a progression in character development.
- This causes some scenes and actions to be, well, predictable.
- The character’s weren’t likable. Not a single one jumped out of me for a good reason.
- The usual, ordinary plot twists and character problems present themselves.
- Teenage pregnancy
- Stress of being cool
- Loving someone that doesn’t love you back
- Rebellious teenager
- Money vs Poor
- Every cliche and stereotype is used and it becomes a little overwhelming and far fetched.
When I put down the book after struggling to finish for almost a month. I couldn’t help but thinking, “Why was this book loved so much?” I understand it had a decent plot and a wide verity of characters but everything lacked when it came down to the final push. Two words: Character Development. This one aspect of the story brought the whole novel down for me more than the other problems combined.
When I am reading I want to not only find myself drawn to the story line but also to its characters. I want to make a relationship with them and devour every part of their souls while reading about their fictional (or nonfictional) lives. Little Fires Everywhere delivered on a lot of characters with their own stories but lost the character development needed for me, as a reader to really care about each of their lives.
I personally could not stand every character in this book. Everyone had an annoying characteristic to them that never seemed to change or grow and it caused me to get frustrated. No one was likable.
The typical lifestyles and problems everyone faced in this book provided the workings of a detailed but bleak plot. Some of the story just became a little far fetched for me. Not only is every character faced with a problem, but no one really does anything to fix those problems and grow.
I will say the symbolism of fire throughout the whole novel was a much needed lesson that links everyone together. How little decisions can come together and create an outcome that is bigger than all the little individual problems.
“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere
- The casting was spot on.
- Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington portrayed the characters Elena and Mia by added much needed character developments.
- Lexi Underwood shined as Pearl, showing off all the right emotions and gestures, I pictured while reading.
- Provided more character development and back story information.
- One of the best book to film adaptations I have seen. One of few that I liked the series better than the book.
- It continued to stick to the norm set by the novel.
- The plot was dense but lackluster.
- Still had the predictable and unrealistic story lines with cliches and stereotypes galore.
- Some of the acting, while in turn gave us more character development, also was a bit over board in some moments.
- Still none of the characters were like able. More than ever they left us with a bad taste in our mouths.
If you aren’t looking for all the details and twists scroll down t
So after watching the series there are a few details that were changed during the adaption from book to screen. In my opinion some of these changes helped enhance the story while others left me wondering why.
Izzy’s Sexuality: Why?
Izzy is still the girl that can’t seem to find her place in high school and in the world in general. She is still that built up ball of anguish and anger. In the show however, she is bullied for one reason only. The spread of how she kissed a girl and now rumored she is gay. This never happened in the book. She was bullied for other reasons.
Now having a young character struggle with the coming to terms with themselves and loving themselves enough to come out is a fantastic thing; here however it was unneeded. There is already so many plot lines happening at once and Izzy is already having the struggle of just being understood by her mom. She doesn’t need the added pressure of a sexuality story on top of it.
Elena and Mia’s First Encounter: Works
There are are two very different first impressions between Elena and Mia’s characters.
In the book Mia and Pearl first see Elena and her husband, Bill, out in town where they are introduced as the typical neighborhood couple and family. This leads up to Elena offering Mia a place to live after witnessing she was sleeping in her car and looking for a place. Which then leads to a job offer at the Richardson’s home as a ‘house manager’. Allowing a steady flow where a relationship was built between two people, even if maybe not good for either of them.
The show had Elena witness Mia sleeping out of her car and then bumping into her by herself. She immediately offers the place and after a little reluctant Mia agrees. She than puts the idea of working for the family in her head and then we reach the entwined relationship again. This time since the sequences happen so much faster, their relationship doesn’t seem so pronounced anymore but more of a question of doubt. This causes immediate tension and pushes the plot between the two into a more dark outlook.
Mia’s Sexuality: Why?
In the book it was made very clear that Mia has never even seen a naked mans body. Her first time she was with a man, she never even looked but it was the last time. She is open about sex but not to the extremes the show took it. Projecting her to be sleeping around with men while baby Pearl is in the back seat of the car. It just seemed kind of a waste, especially when they added a main love interest for Mia.
Mia and Pauline have a relationship in both book and show. In the book Mia is known to crash at Pauline’s place and be around a lot. In the show their relationship is so much more. More scandalous. I understand the addition was a fine addition of character development and story plot but what was the point of the random hookups with guys if they were going to go this route too. Just too much yet again.
The Burning House: Works
“The firemen said there were little fires everywhere,” Lexie said. “Multiple points of origin. Possible use of accelerant. Not an accident.”Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere
What caused the fire and whodunit?
In the book we find out that after much speculation, you guessed it, it was in fact Izzy who burned the house down. We were told from the beginning of the story and watched it slowly progress into this heated ball of pure loathing and anguish burn inside Izzy until it ignited and took the house along with her.
In the show however the writers went a completely different route. As Izzy still progresses with hatred throughout the show, she still gets to the point of pouring gasoline on all her belongings. She is about to set the flames when she is stopped by her siblings. When her mother enters the room all hell breaks lose and the truth that Elena never wanted Izzy comes out. This send Izzy off to run away. Tripp, Moody, and Lexie are perplexed by all the things there mother has done throughout the story and join together to stand up to her. Dowsing each of their rooms with the leftover gasoline, they ignite little fires everywhere throughout the house. After Moody gets Elena out of the burning house, she can only think that she caused this. She might night have set the flames but she lit the match. She takes the blame for setting the house on fire.
This is by far the best way they could’ve fixed the ending and made everything come together so much better at the end. I am so happy with this change from book to script.
What lead to the burning of the Richardson family’s home? More importantly who did it?
We find that the decisions made by each character, past and present, led up to a heartbroken teen/teens who couldn’t take the complexity and ruthlessness of their lives anymore. Izzy/her siblings, burned down their own home with their mother in it.
In all I give the book 2/5 stars and the series a 7/10. I obviously like the show way more and I am looking forward to a season two. If you are looking for a slow story build, check out the book. If you want a more intense ride, check out the series.
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