Celeste Ng’s new novel ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ sets suburbia aglow

Shaker Heights, Ohio, is a comfortable, peaceful, progressive suburb of Cleveland, a carefully planned community incorporated in 1912 that exists in a gentle state of idyll, sustained by adherence to the “rules, many rules, about what you could and could not do.” It’s a marvelous setting for a novel, reminiscent of the sleepy fictional villages that are forever being ravaged by murder.

But unlike St. Mary Mead or Cabot Cove, Shaker Heights is a real place — author Celeste Ng grew up there. In “Little Fires Everywhere,” the stellar follow-up to her bestselling 2014 debut, “Everything I Never Told You,” she takes her hometown and throws it into chaos, with glee and evident affection. The book has some serious themes, but the tone is refreshingly animated, less dependent on ennui and adultery than many of the books that have defined suburban American fiction.

The story begins at the end, with a spot of arson. “Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.”

Celeste Ng will be at Vroman’s Bookstore on Friday October 6 at 7:00 p.m. »

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