I bought this book a few years back with no expectation whatsoever. I liked the cover, glanced at the blurb and decided to get it. I randomly
picked it for the 2020 TBR list and it has turned out to be a rewarding pick. For most parts, it reads like a YA novel (a genre I have no interest in) as it seemed to chronicle the lives of the Richardson kids (I actually liked Izzy, she reminds me of my teenage daughter) and Pearl, the smart daughter of their parents’ tenant. That view is not only incomplete but also misleading.
Little Fires Everywhere is a multi-layered story that deals with all sorts – hypocrisy, infertility, parenting, class divisions, privilege and interracial adoption. At the centre of it all is Mia Warren. An arty character who has lit a fire in her past becomes a nomad who moves from one place to another in a bid to evade the heat that the fire still generates. She arrives Shaker Heights, Ohio wishing to put down her roots and stop moving around for once and settle with her co-traveller; her impressionable teenage daughter, Pearl. Here in Shakers Height, she starts another fire that threatens to not only consume her but also all those around her.
Little Fires Everywhere stands as a mirror in which the hypocrisy of almost all the characters is exposed. The Richardsons like most inhabitants of Shakers Height pride themselves on living perfect and orderly lives while turning their noses up at the likes of Mia who can’t put down root and are unable to get ahead in life due to their lack of well-planned lives. With time their individual lives are shown to be no better than those they look down on and the likes of Mia and Pearl become anchors on which they lean for direction and wisdom.
The central questions that Little Fires Everywhere asks are, what makes someone a mother? Was it biology alone, or was it love? Also, what defines motherly love? Is it diminished by poverty and penury? All of these questions are challenged within the context of adoption. The answer is not so obvious although it is clear where the author’s bias lies. A bias that is evident in the attempt to portray Mia as an eternal victim. An often-ignored fact is that she summarily duped the wealthy New York couple and remains a fugitive as the couple remain bigger victims in Mia’s story.
Little Fires Everywhere is a completely intricate story that causes some introspection and makes one ponder on the privileges that we have. It also nudges one towards a little more empathy. Life no matter how well planned can still go awry and pear-shaped. It takes just one little fire to spoil the best-laid plans. This much is obvious from this well-written book.