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June book of the month: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Join author webchat Tuesday 26 June at 9pm

(95 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 01-Jun-18 17:25:12

Our June book of the month has been described by one of the mn book bloggers as: "without a doubt one of the best books I have read this year" and another says: "My life was put on hold until I had finished the very last word. I gorged on this novel and greedily devoured every single page." Reece Witherspoon has already snapped up the rights, so join us in reading this now.

Author Celeste Ng will be joining us for a webchat on this thread on 26 June when she'll be answering questions about the book and you'll have the opportunity to discuss with other readers. Find out more about the book, read - or listen to - an extract and find out what the Mumsnet bloggers have to say about Little Fires Everywhere

PoodleQueen Tue 26-Jun-18 20:45:58

Looking forward to this!

MrsSchadenfreude Tue 26-Jun-18 20:59:12

I should be asleep!

Caffeinesolution Tue 26-Jun-18 21:01:07

Hi Celeste, thank you for doing this webchat, I loved the book and am really looking forward to hearing from you! I was wondering which characters you found the easiest and hardest to write?

ClaireTMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 26-Jun-18 21:02:11

Good evening!

Welcome Celeste Ng! We're delighted that you're able to join us at the Mumsnet Bookclub to talk about Little Fires Everywhere, which we've been reading over the last month.

We've already received some questions so we'll hand over to you.

Could we also ask you the Mumsnet questions that we put to all of the authors who join us:

What was your favourite childhood book?

What was the last book you bought someone as a gift?

And the last book you received?

And finally - can you describe to us the room where you wrote Little Fires Everywhere?

impostersyndrome Tue 26-Jun-18 21:02:26

Is this meant to be happening now, or have I missed a change of date?

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:03:06

Hello MumsNet Readers--hi from Boston, USA! I'm thrilled to be here and looking forward to answering your questions.

impostersyndrome Tue 26-Jun-18 21:03:08

Aha refreshed!

starlight36 Tue 26-Jun-18 21:04:14

A really fascinating read. Like others I didn't find Mia a particularly likeable character and felt sorry for Pearl that she wasn't ever allowed to stay in one place for long.
My question for Celeste is why did she want to set the story in 'Shaker Heights?' Was it important for the Richardson family to live in a 'perfect' suburb. Was the setting inspired by anywhere you have visited or read about?

Kangaroo1 Tue 26-Jun-18 21:04:26

Hi Celeste,
Who is your favourite character? Or if its easier- who do you relate to most?

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:04:52


Hi Celeste, thank you for doing this webchat, I loved the book and am really looking forward to hearing from you! I was wondering which characters you found the easiest and hardest to write?

Hi Caffeinesolution, thanks for your question! All of the characters were a lot of fun to write, but Izzy was a particular joy: she says and does all the things that we usually stop ourselves from doing in real life, so I just let the reins loose and let her go wild on the page.

Mrs. Richardson was one of the hardest characters to write: I wanted you to understand why she was doing what she did, even if you didn't approve of it. That meant taking you deep inside her head, which took a lot of work.

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:05:37


Adored this novel! I wanted to ask Celeste if she is planning on a sequel? I am desperate to find out what happens to the characters x

Hi IslandLivingEmma! Thanks so much--so glad you enjoyed. I don't have plans for a sequel at the moment--all I know about the characters is on the page. But never say never; perhaps they'll come back to me later on?

PoodleQueen Tue 26-Jun-18 21:06:49

Hi Celeste! When did you know that you were a writer?

Belo Tue 26-Jun-18 21:07:00

I LOVED THIS BOOK! The characters were perfectly crafted; all flawed, but very believable. The dilemma of the mother's and angst of the teenagers felt real.

My question is what has been your biggest dilemma as a mother?

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:07:29


Amazing book! What a page turner, finished it today!

My question is where did you get the inspiration for the book from? Always so intrigued by an authors thought process.

Thank you for a great book smile

Hi littlerose12345! The book began because I really wanted to write about my hometown--Shaker Heights, Ohio, which is really a real place. I'd been away from home for about 10 years (I left for university and never moved back) and I was starting to see my hometown in a different light. I realized how unusual it is, both for the good and the less-good, and I wanted to try and put that into fiction.

I started with the town itself, and imagined a family that might embody that town, and that turned out to be the Richardsons. Then I imagined who might come in and stir up trouble for them, and in came Mia and Pearl. The story grew from there. Thanks for asking!

SallySwann Tue 26-Jun-18 21:08:15

I loved all the photography stuff in your book and the different ideas portrayed. Were you yourself interested in photography and do you take your own artistic photos?

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:09:33


Hi Celeste,
Who is your favourite character? Or if its easier- who do you relate to most?

Hi Kangaroo1!

All of the characters have a little bit of me in them, but I most identify with both Mia AND Mrs. Richardson. Which sounds impossible, I know. But I'm very much a planner, like Elena, and at the same time I have a natural dislike for blindly following the rules. Like Mia, I'm a bit of a troublemaker at heart. In my mind, the two of them are flip sides of the same coin--two idealists who take their ideals to extremes--and I relate to both of them very deeply.

Thank you for your question!

VanderlyleGeek Tue 26-Jun-18 21:09:49

Hi Celeste,

Thanks for doing this chat! I was wondering if you could discuss your choice of Ohio as the setting for both of your novels. Shaker Heights' quirky charm aside, how/does the state itself function for you? Does it encapsulate a specific outlook or worldview?

MrsSchadenfreude Tue 26-Jun-18 21:10:44

I’m only on chapter 8, and I’m loving it so far. I like the fact that none of the characters are wholly likeable. I also think that this sort of community would only exist in US and not in U.K. or other parts of Europe (I live in Eastern Europe and it is completely alien to here).

Belo Tue 26-Jun-18 21:11:32

Interesting to read that it was the town that was the starting point for the novel. Reading it I had assumed it was motherhood.

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:12:28


OK. I finished it now. I really enjoyed the way the designed community was portrayed. Although it was shown as conformist and I suppose narrow-minded, this was a critique made not in a judgemental way, but showing that decisions made before one has had a chance to learn life-lessons, can determine one's path for decades onwards.

There are several things I'd be interested in discussing on the web-chat, but what strikes me most strongly is the question raised by the book itself: which is more important in the case of parenting: a blood connection, or material provision, when both options involve a loving parent (or set of parents)?

Funnily enough, a slightly different angle on the same question occurred to me when reading Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski. Laski's book seems to be saying that so long as the child is loved (and materially provided for), the blood connection is much less important.

I wonder what the author herself thinks, as Little Fires Everywhere seems to present this as very much a Solomonic dilemma?

Hi impostersyndrome,

Ah, this is a very big question--maybe the biggest question of the book. I don't think there's one right answer. Every circumstance is different, and what works in one case isn't always the best choice for another family. What I'd say is that allowing the adoptee some choice in deciding what kinds of relationships to have might be the best thing. I'm definitely not an expert on this, and others will have different feelings. In an ideal world, I think the McCulloughs and Bebe would have shared custody somehow, but alas, we don't live in a world that allows that very often.

Thanks for your question, and for reading.

SallySwann Tue 26-Jun-18 21:13:03

If it's not too presumptuous, your ethnic origin appears to be similar to Bebe. If that is true, have you maintained a strong understanding of your background?

starlight36 Tue 26-Jun-18 21:13:38

Hi Celeste,
You've covered off my question about Shaker Heights already!
I also wondered if it was a conscious decision to make all of the string characters in the book female?

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:13:58


Hi Celeste! When did you know that you were a writer?

Hi PoodleQueen! I wanted to be a writer very early on--I learned to read quite early, sometime at age 2 according to my mom, and I can't remember a time when I wasn't making up stories. I wrote poems and stories and plays through childhood and all through high school. I didn't think it was an actual career, though, until I was 23 and decided to go to graduate school for writing. Even now I have a hard time believing that I get to do this for a living. I'm very lucky.

Thank you for your question!

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:15:34


I loved this book - and was fascinated by the descriptions of the art and photography. I suppose my question is whether you are tempted to try out some of the ideas in your book and make pictures?

Hi Tinlegs,

I always wanted to be a visual artist, but sadly don't have the talent. sad Imagining Mia's photographs was my way of vicariously living the artist's life. However, after writing the book, I've started to teach myself photography, shooting on 35mm film using some of my dad's old cameras--he was a hobby photographer and I got his cameras after he died. Maybe I'll try re-creating Mia's works, if I ever get the skills.

Thank you for your question!

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:17:54


I LOVED THIS BOOK! The characters were perfectly crafted; all flawed, but very believable. The dilemma of the mother's and angst of the teenagers felt real.

My question is what has been your biggest dilemma as a mother?

Hi Belo,

So glad you enjoyed the novel! Right now, I must admit I'm really struggling with explaining our current political situation to my son. He's a sweet and sensitive child, and I don't know whether it's better to try and shield him from what's happening in our country now, or to try and talk with him so he's prepared. That's always the fine line parents walk, isn't it: how much do you protect your child, and how much do you try and "toughen them up"? It's important to me to raise a child who's engaged in the world and empathetic, so we talk about these things in terms he can understand, where possible. I suspect many parents out there may be dealing with similar issues.

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