By Chet Yarbrough
Little Fires Everywhere
By: Celeste Ng
Narrated by: Jennifer Lim
Celeste Ng (American Author, Received Guggenheim Fellowhip in 2020.)
“Little Fires Everywhere” is a work of fiction addressing American wealth and poverty, freedom, abortion, discrimination, family relationship, academic education, and parenting. The author, Celeste Ng, artfully creates two families. The first family has wealth. The second lives on the edge of poverty. Both have well educated children who make big and little mistakes borne from their genetic inheritance and environment.
The two mothers are the primary decision makers. The mother of the wealthy family (Elena Richardson) is a reporter and college graduate. The mother of the poor family (Mia Warren) is a waitress, house cleaner, and formally educated artist who quit college. The wealthy mother has four children, two boys and two girls. The artist mother has one daughter. These families come together in the same exclusive neighborhood. The wealthy mother decides to offer half a duplex for rental to a mother and her daughter. The duplex is on the same property as the single-family home in which the Richardson’s live.
Elena Richardson contrasts with Mia Warren in most ways. Both went to college but one graduated while the other dropped out. Both are dominate influencers in their social interactions, but Elena is bullying while Mia is reasoning.
The Richardson boys are near the age of Mia Warren’s young daughter. All the children are in their teenage years.
The children in this story reflect the strengths and weaknesses of their parents. Both family’s children are headstrong, but the Richardson family’s children rely on their economic stability in making choices about life. The Warren family relies on their independent lifestyle and pragmatic view of the world to make choices about life.
Freedom is never absolute.
The Richardson’s freedom is constrained by rule-of-law, wealth, and social position. The Warren’s freedom is constrained by rule-of-law, poverty, and moral conscience. Abortion is a moral and social crime to Elena Richardson. Abortion is a woman’s right and moral choice to Mia Warren. Discrimination is academic to Elena and her social circle. It is personal to Mia. The Richardson family relationships are autocratic and secretive. The Warren family relationship is democratic and selectively open, limited by the maturity of Mia’s daughter. Education to the Richardson family is important to improve one’s social position. Education to the Warren family is to broaden one’s understanding of life.
Parenting is shown to be the most difficult task of every family. whether wealthy or poor. The lifestyle of the Richardson family creates “Little Fires Everywhere”. The Warren family lifestyle implies a fire retardant. The author tells a story that reveals how difficult it is to be parent of societies’ future.