Little Fires Everywhere

There’s a 1995 film called “Losing Isaiah”, featuring Jessica Lange and Halle Berry that explores similar themes as this book: is the birth mother or the mother who raises a child the real mother? Can a black child be raised by a non-black parent and truly have a good life? Being a 90s movie, it explores these themes with plenty of appeals to emotion, stereotype and is not the most artistic or intellectual exploration of these topics. The central question of nature vs nurture, the true meaning of parenthood are age old questions. Both “Losing Isaiah” and Little Fires Everywhere feel more like mainstream explorations of these ideas, rather than sophisticated, philosophical, or even complicated artistic explorations.

This book, like Celeste Ng’s Everything I never told you, is easily readable and does more telling than showing. It suffers from less-than-literary flaws like the introduction of new characters in the middle of the book, multiple “main” characters that get little attention, development or growth over time, and overwrought explication of motivations that should be left for the reader to think about based on a character’s actions.

Some of the detours away from the main plot, especially into Mia’s background, were interesting and left me wanting more. And I did find some of the central themes interesting to think about. But I don’t think this book will stick with me, at least not as much as her previous novel.