In Celeste Ng’s second novel, “Little Fires Everywhere,” racial tensions come to a boiling point in suburban Ohio when the outwardly perfect house of the Richardson family burns to the ground. Ng’s second novel grapples with the same themes as her 2014 debut, “Everything I Never Told You,” including motherhood, race, and the dangerous facade of perfection.
Set in seemingly utopian ’90s suburbia, “Little Fires Everywhere” is heavy with “Scarlet Letter” allusions and follows the Richardson family, particularly their children, in the wake of the fire. For instance, there’s Lexie, a newly pregnant teenager. In a particularly poignant moment, her boyfriend Brian, an upper-class African American who’s destined for Princeton, remarks that he doesn’t want to be “that guy — another black kid [who] knocked up a girl before he even graduated.” Other characters like Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl grapple with the intersections of race, gender, and class in other ways, such as how these themes play into morality and the world around them.
Even if reading is not your thing, be sure to check out the upcoming Hulu adaptation of the novel, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. “Little Fires Everywhere” cements Ng’s status as a contemporary author whose work is sure to be read for decades to come.