Little Fires Everywhere-A book-to-screen adaption that I can get on board with
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Little Fires Everywhere-A book-to-screen adaption that I can get on board with

Ng's celebrated novel takes a more nuanced approach in the Hulu adaptation

Little Fires Everywhere-A book-to-screen adaption that I can get on board with
EW Online

I was a little late in experiencing the brilliance of Celeste Ng's 2017 novel Little Fires Everywhere, but like many, I took advantage of this quarantine to catch up on some reading and this book was at the top of my list.

Little Fires is a book that is particularly engaging because it deals with a variety of issues in such an eye-opening way- issues that seem even more pertinent to discuss right now, even though this book was set in the '90s. The way in which racism, motherhood, assimilation and class are delved into seamlessly, through the perspectives of many different characters, made this novel one that I couldn't stop thinking about long after I read it.

The book is set in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a town that on the surface is veiled in sense perfection and order that the citizens uphold to in an almost dogmatic way. This ideal of order paired with the town's persistent mantra of being accepting of everyone regardless of race (a.k.a "colorblindness", *insert eye roll*) paints a pretty facade on the outside. This facade slowly starts to crumble when mother-daughter duo, Mia and Pearl Warren arrive in Shaker Heights. When the Warren's move into the rental property of the Richardsons, an affluent, white family headed by their matriarch Elena, the story starts to develop and brings forth a wide array of emotions for the reader. Not only do you get to witness the heightened tensions between the Warren's and the Richardson's throughout the book, but there is also the crucial subplot of the emotionally exhausting custody battle for a 1-year old baby girl fought between her Chinese immigrant birth mother and a white couple living in Shaker Heights who want to adopt her.

Like in most cases of book-to-screen adaptations, I was understandably hesitant to start watching Little Fires on Hulu because the book was so incredible that I didn't want my perception of it to get tainted by the show, but I decided a to give it a shot anyway, because hey, if it stars Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, how bad can it really be? To my relief, I found Little Fires to be one of the best book-to-screen adaptations I've watched, ever. Not only was there superb acting done by the entire cast, but there were also certain nuances added to the plot that in my opinion enhanced the story even further.

In previous interviews, Ng mentions why she chose for Mia and Pearl to be white characters, stating that she didn't feel she had the right to author a narrative of the black experience. In the Hulu adaption with Kerry Washington playing Mia and Lexie Underwood (who gives such a nuanced and emotionally rich performance at such a young age) playing Pearl, we get two incredible black actresses giving us the perspective of what it means to battle racial tensions and micro-aggressions from a family and community that is predominantly white and wealthy. We also get a closer look into another black character, Brian who is the boyfriend of the eldest daughter of the Richardson household, Lexie. In the book, Brian doesn't get much of a voice, but in the Hulu series, he ended up being one of my favorites after he brilliantly shuts down Lexi's entitled and subconsciously racist behavior.

I also enjoyed that we got a more detailed background of arguably the two most central characters in the story, Mia and Elena, particularly from their early adult life which helped to give me perspective on why they each made the decisions that they did- decisions that they inevitably had to face the repercussions of throughout the rest of their lives.

What ultimately makes the book and the show both worth your time, is that you don't find any clear cut answers by the end of either of them. I found myself wanting to defend Mia while also finding her behavior to be completely insufferable at times. Similarly, while I despised Elena throughout the book, I found myself empathizing with her to a certain extent after watching the show.

Part of the reason why I hope that there isn't a second season of Little Fires is because it would stop people from analyzing the main themes and messages of Ng's story. Yes, the story doesn't necessarily have the happiest of endings but it isn't meant to be wrapped up in a pretty bow- it's made to make you reflect. If you loved reading Little Fires like me, and are hesitant to watch the show, trust me you're definitely missing out, so get to binge watching ASAP.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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