Tag Archives: Celeste Ng

‘Little Fires Everywhere’ by Celeste Ng

“All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control. It scaled walls and jumped over trenches. Sparks leapt like fleas and spread as rapidly, a breeze could carry embers for miles. Better to control that spark and pass it carefully from one generation to the next, like an Olympic torch. Or, perhaps, to tend it carefully like an eternal flame: a reminder of light and goodness that would never–could never–set anything ablaze. Carefully controlled. Domesticated. Happy in captivity. The key, she thought, was to avoid conflagration.”

When a book starts literally with a house on fire, you do sit up and pay attention! In the opening scene, three teenagers are sitting on a car, watching their family home burn down, while the youngest in the family has disappeared. She’s not still in the house, she’s suspected of lighting the fires. At that point I was hooked, and the novel kept me well entertained throughout a lot of airmiles on my way back from New Zealand–definitely a nice story to get completely lost in.

Celeste Ng seems to enjoy writing about dysfunctional families and she is definitely getting better at it. This one was well crafted, and a cut above the other one of hers that I read called Everything I Never Told You. I think her character development has improved and she has created a bit more suspense. I’ve noticed this title popping up on quite a few lists of favourite books of 2017 and I think it is not undeserved. This is a great one for book clubs with lots to discuss!

‘Everything I Never Told You’ by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told Youstarstarstar“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So starts this character driven debut novel full of family dynamics and secrets. Set in the 70’s, Lydia Lee is the favourite middle child in a mixed race family. She has inherited her mother’s blue eyes and her father’s jet black hair. For some reason, Lydia has become her parents’ hope for the future and the embodiment of their unfulfilled dreams. Her brother and sister are on the fringes but have valuable information about what may have happened to her. On the surface it appears that this slightly dysfunctional family is mostly ok, but when Lydia is found floating in the lake the novel slowly reveals what was hiding under the surface all along. The title becomes an echoing refrain that brings up the truth and reveals what was hidden.

This haunting novel grew on me. Because it begins with the main event, the story is told in flashbacks with small reveals that gradually inform the reader. It is compelling in a quiet sort of way. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is similar but I found it to be much more of a page turner and overall more profound and compelling. However, Everything I Never Told You is a sensitive and elegant cautionary tale about how families can struggle all their lives to really understand one another.