My book club recently read Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng. The friend who suggested it loved it so much that she also watched the series starring Reese Witherspoon and listened to it on Audible.
I enjoyed the book and found its story to be compelling and timely. Ms. Ng does an incredible job of illustrating the subtle inherent attitudes and perspectives that are so often embedded in lives and people of privilege–even those who believe themselves to be self-aware, or in modern terminology, “woke”.
In this well-crafted and character-driven work, Ms. Ng tells the story of a family of privilege with mostly good intent, and the impact that a single mother and her daughter, who have grown up far from the family’s privileged and ordered lives, has on the way each family member views the world and the people who live in it. For certain family members, that impact is profound and life changing, while for others, the doors to their minds are opened a just bit wider, allowing them to consider realities other than what they have experienced in their lives thus far.
Ms. Ng makes these characters real through their complexity and the cross-patterns of their daily lives, which will be familiar to most who have lived in American suburban communities. The actions of privilege and the reasoning behind them is expertly demonstrated in the ways that the Richardsons, especially Elena (Reese Witherspoon) interact with the artistic and empathetic Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) and her intelligent and introspective daughter, Pearl (Lexi Underwood). To the Richardson children, the Warrens’ lifestyle is appealing in its differentiation from their own. To Ms. Richardson, that differentiation–the freedom and unstructured nature of it–is not only disquieting but poses a threat to all that she believes in, to the very fabric of her life and the choices she’s made in weaving it.
Matchbook Chardonnay is the perfect pairing for Little Fires Everywhere. Golden and buttery, it has a smooth finish that makes it difficult to follow Ms. Richardson’s example and have just one glass. Happy reading!