Posts tagged ‘Celeste Ng’

The Gift of New Beginnings and Hard Choices – Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

There is a reason this book is on the tip of everyone’s tongue when they talk about the 2017 books to read.  It is simply excellent.  Ng’s sophomore novel is just as good as her first – and if you haven’t read “Everything I Never Told” then you have two books for your Thanksgiving reading list. 34273236.jpg

By all societal measures, the Richardson family is perfect. The attorney husband, the reporter wife (Elena), the two sons and two daughters nestled in their beautiful, well-manicured home in the carefully planned and civic-minded community of Shaker Heights.  Mia and Pearl, the Richardson’s new tenants, are the antithesis of the Richardson family. They are constantly on the move. Mia takes part-time jobs to sustain her art and Pearl is dragged along trying to find where she fits in each new school. They do not own a couch or two beds, their home furnishing are as impermanent as Mia’s artistic creations.

Despite their differences, at first the families seem to be a good fit in many respects.  Elena (Mrs. Richardson) hires Mia to clean their house and make dinner and Pearl becomes a fixture in the Richardson children’s lives. In a turn of heartbreak, when Elena’s life-long infertile caucasian friends move to adopt a Chinese baby, Mia quickly discovers that she works with the birth mother at a Chinese restaurant. The birth mother who has now realized that leaving her baby at a fire station was the worst mistake of her life.  This begins a legal battle between the birth mother and the adoptive parents splitting the town itself with the question of what makes a good mother? As the legal battle begins to pull Elena and Mia further apart, Elena makes the decision to find out about Mia’s history and this leads her down a path that results in a bitter end for absolutely everyone.

The question of motherhood and what makes us good mothers is a thread through-out this book. Is it the willingness to give up the things we most want for our children? Is it the simple act of giving life and sharing our genetic codes and ethnic backgrounds? Is it the financial ability to give the child the best life opportunities? Is it understanding we are not yet ready to be a mother and making the ultimate sacrifice of  giving up the child or ending the pregnancy?  Is it understanding that you are first a self-determined woman and then a mother or vice versa?

Ng examines each of these possibilities, while at the same time looking at how we plan our lives and how even the best plans are often extremely flawed.  There is an actual fire in the beginning and end of this story so the title is literal in that sense.  But Ng’s writing really pushes the edges of our planned lives to the brink of those moments when we pretend that everything is okay when really there are small fires to be put out everywhere we turn.  And sometimes those fires are exactly what we need to wake us up.

“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”

 

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November 21, 2017 at 10:06 am Leave a comment

The Schools out It’s Time to Read List

I have been reading a lot, and a lot of the books have been fun.  So here is what I think you should be reading while malingering by the pool.

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: This was one of those big hype books that never sounded particularly like my kind of genre.  But it is just so good. Admittedly, it is another of those futuristic, lots of people die from a disease, stories. But the way the story is linked with the life of a celebrity actor is just fascinating.  The novel also takes  an interesting look at theater and how it changes as the world changes. Celebrity acting is such a disconnecting/lonely thing but a traveling troupe of actors connects people and towns.  I can’t guarantee your money back or anything, but this book is worth the leap of faith.

2. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon: This book is creepy and scary and all of those good things that a creepy-scary book should be.  Below the floor boards in an old house, surrounded by encroaching woods,  someone finds the diary of a woman who was murdered in 1908.  This is really all I need to say, right?

3. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: You know from the first sentence of the book that Lydia is dead but her family does not.  Lydia is the teen daughter of a mixed-race marriage in the 1970s.  Her father is Chinese and her mother is Caucasian.  While it is a mystery through-out how Lydia died, it is not the driving force of the book. It is instead driven by the dreams that parents have and how the unspoken force of these dreams can do great harm, even when they are meant with the best intentions.  This novel was amazingly insightful, particularly in how Ng examines how broken people carry their brokenness into parenthood.

4. At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen:  I didn’t think this was a stunning novel.  And it was extremely predictable, almost painfully so, but it took place in Scotland and that made me inexplicably happy.  It is set during WWII, when three American socialites Maddie and her husband Ellis, along with his friend Hank, decide to head to Loch Ness to find the infamous monster.  They are spoiled, rich kids with a ridiculous plan.  While Ellis and Hank spend their days drinking on the shores of Loch Ness, with binoculars, Maddie sits at the pub and waits.  There is a sully maid and a burly pub keeper – so one gets in a fight, another woman gets pregnant, etc.  I think you get the idea but it is a fun, mindless read for the summer.

IMG_0498Swim, read. Work, read. Have a cocktail, read. Have two cocktails, read.  Whatever happens just make sure it ends with a book. Cheers.

May 26, 2015 at 7:05 pm Leave a comment


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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