So I just very randomly opened up the drafts of my blog section and found this book review lying unpublished. Like how could I have not posted this?? (The “schedule later” section is silently and wickedly looking at me like ‘i told you so, hun’) *sighs*
Now I finally know when Schedule Later could come into handy.
So thoughts on Celeste Ng’s debut novel, huh?
When it first came out, I remember there was a quite a rage about it in the book community. From topping Amazon’s 100 best books of the year to being a New York Times Notable book, it was quite clear that the author would come out soon with another of her book which would be equally ravishing to read. And well, Little Fires Everywhere, was indeed a treat.
So because I read this book a little time back, I don’t remember a lot about it but I will try to articulate my words as clearly as possible. The story takes place in America in the 1970’s during a time when there was a rising issue about the acceptance and treatment of American born Chinese and follows a journey of a similar family trapped between the hinges of being a native American while also staying close to their Chinese roots. It is a heartfelt story of family, identity, race-ethnicity. The narrative starts with the murder of the oldest daughter in the family who’s body was found drowned in the lake. The rest of the book deals with the aftermath of this tumultous incident and its impact on each of the family members. From here, the story goes in a reverse chronological order and we are led through the events that took place before the event which ultimately lead to Lydia committing her suicide. It tackles issues of all kinds that an American teenager of an immigrant background has to face. From succumbing to societal pressures about being ‘a true American’ to family pressures about ‘being perfect, being successful and good on the exterior’ – it talks about real issues of race, color and your social identity. Knowing that it is the author’s own voice adds an extra edge to the story and makes the reader feel as if they’re reading a personalised account of events.
“How had it begun? Like everything: with mothers and fathers. Because of Lydia’s mother and father, because of her mother’s and father’s mothers and fathers.”
One of the things I really liked about the book were the characters. A story is made tenfold more interesting if the characters are three-dimensional and relatable. In this book, it wasn’t like Malfoy or Harry Potter where you instantly just disliked or liked a character, you know? Over here, the build-up of each character is slow and deep, showing us complete reflections of everyone, taking it’s sweet time to make the readers understand the complexity of each character. Lydia’s way of showing everything was perfect on the outside and the reasons of her tormented relationship with her brother, Nath, is slowly but very subtly made clear to the readers.
“When a long, long time later, he stares down at the silent blue marble of the earth and thinks of his sister, as he will at every important moment of his life. He doesn’t know this yet, but he senses it deep down in his core. So much will happen, he thinks, that I would want to tell you.”
However, the most grief-stricken reaction evoking from the readers is by the character of Lydia’s youngest sister, Hannah. She seems to be like an outsider, a spectator in the beginning but slowly, as we our led to her train of thoughts, it dawns on us how much she has been ignored and how much the readers as well as the characters in the story have under-estimated her presence.
On the contrary, one thing that I really did not like is that the book sometimes get overly-descriptive which kind of drags the story. Like how many times do you have to show the people on the streets looking at Lydia to make a point that she feels like an outsider? As much as I felt that, it became a little repetitive after a while. Secondly, the blurb at the back of the book is really deceiving. I went into this book thinking it was a thriller or a murder mystery, but look how different it turned out to be. So because my expectations of the book were very different, I think that somehow hindered me from “loving” this book.
And then there was this whole ending which I hated. I hated it because it was so abrupt leaving so many things unsettled. I think the end was somewhat symbolic of how deeply-rooted this issue of racism is and how it takes generations to alleviate this issue. But on the other hand, I really would have liked it if the author had provided some kind of an epilogue where we would have known if this particular incident made the parents realise and see their mistakes (lowkey REALLY wanted to know how Hannah was doing!!)
My Rating: 3.5/5
You should really read it though if you’re looking for a good complex family read + this book has good writing-style so that’s always one reason why you should read a book.
Let me know your thoughts about the book if you’ve read it!