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Literary Glance: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

January 10, 2018

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is a pretty good book so far.

That’s it.  That could be my entire my review.  I mean, I’ve read only a couple chapters so far, but I haven’t found much to complain about, which is unusual for me.  Some people think I read books with the intent of finding something wrong with them, but that’s not true.  I want to enjoy books, but sometimes I notice stuff that other readers might not, and since I don’t get paid to write and these famous bestselling authors do, I get ticked off when I see well-paid famous authors take shortcuts that amateurs aren’t allowed to get away with.

Anyway, back to my review.  It feels like Celeste Ng is a real writer.  At least, I haven’t noticed any cheap shortcuts yet (and I promise I’m not trying to find them).  A couple really long paragraphs stood out as warning signs in the first few pages.  There were a few teenage characters, but they weren’t exceedingly annoying or precocious or overly witty, as some authors like to write.  They sounded like normal teenagers.  Several characters (who aren’t the teenagers) have been introduced or mentioned, and they’re easy to keep track of.

If there’s anything to complain about, it’s long paragraphs.  They make my eyes hurt, and the length might be unnecessary.  Here’s a long paragraph from the beginning of Chapter 2:

Shaker Heights was like that.  There were rules, many rules about what you could and could not do, as Mia and Pearl began to learn as they settled into their new home.  They learned to write their new address: 18434 Winslow Road Up, those two little letters ensuring that their mail ended up in their apartment, and not with Mr. Yang downstairs.  They learned that the little strip of grass between sidewalk and street was called a tree lawn- because of the young Norway maple, one per house, that graced it- and that garbage cans were not dragged there on Friday mornings but instead left at the rear of the house, to avoid the unsightly spectacle of trash cans cluttering the curb.  Large motor scooters, each piloted by a man in an orange work suit, zipped down each driveway to collect the garbage in the privacy of the backyard, ferrying it to the larger truck idling out in the street, and for months Mia would remember their first Friday on Winslow Road, the fright she’d had when the scooter, like a revved-up flame-colored golf cart, shot past the kitchen window with engine roaring.  They got used to it eventually, just as they got used to the detached garage- stationed well at the back of the house, again to preserve the view of the street- and learned to carry an umbrella to keep them dry as they ran from car to house on rainy days.  Later, when Mr. Yang went away for two weeks in July, to visit his mother in Hong Kong, they learned that an unmowed lawn would result in a polite but stern letter from the city, noting that their grass was over six inches tall and that if the situation was not rectified, the city would mow the grass- and charge them a hundred dollars- in three days.  There were many rules to be learned.

By my standards, that’s a long paragraph.  It could probably be chopped up and not lose any artistic value.  But for some reason, it didn’t bother me much (except for hurting my eyes).  Maybe it didn’t bother me because I started reading Little Fires Everywhere right after I’d gotten ticked off at a James Patterson book.  James Patterson can make just about every book that’s not his look good.

To be honest, I’ve never heard of Celeste Ng before, and I don’t like admitting this because I read a lot and I blog about books.  I like Ng’s writing.  I’m still not quite sure what the book is about, but since I like Ng’s writing style, I’ll probably keep reading and find out.


What do you think?  Was that long paragraph from Little Fires Everywhere too much?  Did it hurt anybody else’s eyes?  Or was that just me?

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