• Little Fires Everywhere

  • By: Celeste Ng
  • Narrated by: Jennifer Lim
  • Length: 11 hrs and 27 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (60,764 ratings)

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Little Fires Everywhere

By: Celeste Ng
Narrated by: Jennifer Lim
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Editorial review

By Mysia Haight, Audible Editor


I became a first-time mom at 40—to a nine-year-old girl. My daughter, Lucero, is adopted, and though she occasionally sounds like me (it’s thrilling to hear my words coming out of her mouth), we don’t look anything alike. In terms of race and ethnicity, Lucero is Black and Hispanic, and I’m white and roughly three-quarters English and a quarter Italian. Over the years, I’ve rarely encountered overt criticism for choosing transracial adoption, partly because Lucero was adopted as an older child who had spent nearly three years in foster care with five different families before I met her. Would I have been judged differently if I had adopted my daughter as an infant? Would I have adopted my daughter if I knew her biological mother had given her up in a moment of desperation and then regretted it and just as desperately wanted her back?

The theme of transracial adoption is what drew me to Little Fires Everywhere. Celeste Ng’s beautiful writing, richly drawn characters, and sensitive exploration of the challenges and complexities of motherhood are what kept me immersed in the story and left me thinking long after I had finished reading. Yes, I got caught up in the controversial battle for custody of a Chinese American baby (Mirabelle/May Ling) between the well-off white couple about to finalize her adoption and the birth mother who, for heart-wrenching reasons, was unable to care for her. But I became deeply invested in the novel’s two main characters, Elena Richardson and Mia Warren, and each woman’s fraught relationship with her own 15-year-old daughter.

Opening in 1997, Little Fires Everywhere is set in Shaker Heights, Ohio—a suburban community carefully planned and maintained with the goals of integration and harmonious living. It’s an actual place, and the setting is integral to the story. Elena is a third-generation Shaker Heights resident and believes in rules and order as the keys to keeping the peace. She works as a reporter for the local paper, but her priority is being a mother to her four now teenage children—Lexie, Trip, Moody, and Izzy. Mia is a gifted photographer and, despite her nomadic lifestyle, a devoted mother as well. Her daughter, Pearl, has gotten used to not only moving from place to place but also to her mother’s knack for evading questions, especially about the identity of her father. When they arrive in Shaker Heights, however, Mia promises Pearl that the two of them will "stay put." They rent a house owned by the Richardsons, and before long, the lives of Elena and Mia—and the fates of their children—become intertwined in unexpected ways.

Continue reading Mysia's review >

Publisher's summary

A Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

The runaway New York Times best seller!

Named a Best Book of the Year by:

People, The Washington Post, Bustle, Esquire, Southern Living, The Daily Beast, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Audible, Goodreads, Library Reads, Book of the Month, Paste, Kirkus Reviews, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and many more!

"I read Little Fires Everywhere in a single, breathless sitting." (Jodi Picoult)

“To say I love this book is an understatement. It’s a deep psychological mystery about the power of motherhood, the intensity of teenage love, and the danger of perfection. It moved me to tears.” (Reese Witherspoon)

“I am loving Little Fires Everywhere. Maybe my favorite novel I've read this year.” (John Green)

From the best-selling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned - from the layout of the winding roads to the colors of the houses to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren - an enigmatic artist and single mother - who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter, Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants - all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town - and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood - and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

Perfect for book clubs! Visit celesteng.com for discussion guides and more.

©2017 Celeste Ng (P)2017 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"Witty, wise, and tender. It's a marvel." (Paula Hawkins, New York Times best-selling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water)

Featured Article: Little Fires Everywhere—Book vs. Show

Whether you're a fan of the miniseries and haven't yet listened to the book, you loved Celeste Ng's novel and are curious about how it translates to the screen, or you're wondering why so many people are drawn to this story, here's our take on what makes Little Fires Everywhere so compelling and how the strengths of each version stack up. How does miniseries differ from the novel? And why have both struck a chord with so many people? Read on for answers.