Who lit the fires?

‘Little fires everywhere’ is exceptional detailing of strength of family


Illustration by Victoria Van

Story by Katie Biggar, staff writer

While we are currently in the depths of winter, there aren’t many things that can brighten our spirits from the solitude of our warm but ridiculously boring homes. The one thing that always gets me feeling a bit more comfortable about this never-ending season is a steaming cup of hot chocolate next to the fire with a good book in my hands.

This season, I have done just that. In my time of great boredom, I have stumbled across Celeste Ng’s best-seller, “Little Fires Everywhere.” From the first page, which burdens the reader with the mystery of who started the fire in quiet Cleveland, Ohio, this book catches the reader by storm and makes it impossible to stop turning pages. The major question we are faced with in the beginning is: Who could’ve possibly started that fire, and more importantly, why?

Elena and Bill Richardson are the epitome of the American dream with their luxurious home, cars, jobs and four beautiful children. Their life within the gates of Shaker Heights, Ohio has been nothing but extremely regimined for as long as the family has been there. The only kink in their picture-perfect family is her youngest daughter Izzy, whose differences paint her out to be troubled in the eyes of her mother and the family’s friends.

Until the climax of the story, the family has never faced true loss until the catastrophe of losing their home due to a fire. When asked what could’ve started the fire, the firemen states that rather than one single place of origin, there were “several little fires everywhere.” The only family member not around to watch the house burn to the ground is indeed Izzy Richardson, which, by default, makes her the primary subject of the question. Mia Warren and her teenage daughter, Pearl, also flee their house behind the Richardson residence, which they had been renting and residing in up to this point.

The book takes a trip into the past to enlighten the reader with relationships between the characters and indulge into the early life of Mia to give the reader insight into how and why she ended up behind the Richardson’s home. Mia and her daughter arrived in Shaker Heights about a year before the incident takes place, with only her car and belongings. After many years of unanswered questions from her mother, Pearl finally succeeds in convincing her mother to stay put in this small Ohio town in hopes of building a life that they’ve never had the chance to have.

Though I came to the first page without any recommendations, this book has made its place into my heart and I will always consider it to be one of my favorites.”

— Katie Biggar

Once settled into the groove of living the “normal life” of a teenager, Pearl finds herself very attached to the three Richardson children, excluding Izzy. Izzy, however, finds herself drawn to the complexity of her new neighbor Mia and makes it her mission to find out her story. After incredibly heartbreaking news wedges itself between the two families, and secrets fill all of the empty holes, we are left with a burning fire and a broken family.

As an avid reader, I found this book impossible to put down. The way the characters develop and change themselves throughout the book is exceptionally put together. Though I came to the first page without any recommendations, this book has made its place into my heart and I will always consider it to be one of my favorites. Finding out who lit the little fires everywhere with a mug of hot chocolate on a cold day this winter is the perfect pastime.

Buy it here.