Little Fires with Big Meaning
Surrogacy has become a booming industry. This industry has particularly gained traction in Asian countries where poor and desperate women agree to have children for wealthy couples who are unable to have children of their own. However, the exploitation that makes the surrogacy business possible has since been uncovered. Concerns have been raised that surrogacy is now being exploited and has been commercialized. Through her novel Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng helps readers to understand why they should care about surrogacy and the role that they can play to protect vulnerable women.
Little Fires Everywhere appears dedicated to mothers who are struggling to provide their children with satisfying experiences while grappling with personal struggles and financial challenges. The book follows Mia Warren, an artist and mother of a young girl that Ng names Pearl. Ng also introduces the Richardson’s, a wealthy family headed by Elena Richardson whose children bring her family and that of Mia together. Through the interactions of the two families, Ng manages to shed light on how motherhood and families can deliver joy and cause pain.
The limited scope of this review does not permit for an in-depth summary of the plot of Little Fires Everywhere. However, it is still important to note the significant events and developments that occur. Among these events is the friendship that Mia’s daughter Pearl develops with Richardson’s son. This friendship gradually develops into a romantic affair which helps to unravel the secrets and mysteries of the two families. The main secret is that in both families, surrogacy has played an important role.
One does not need to flip through many pages before understanding why Ng chose to title her novel Little Fires Everywhere. This title is certainly a reference to the fires that Izzy, one of the main characters in the book starts. She ignites these fires as a form of protest at the poor treatment that Pearl endures and a symbol of the deep divisions and ugly confrontations that can occur among members of a family.
Across its various chapters, Little Fires Everywhere narrates how the Richardson’s and Mia’s family betray one another and eventually come to the realization of the tremendous meaning and sense of fulfillment that family can provide. The novel concludes with Mia fleeing with her daughter as part of her effort to ensure that Pearl is reconnected with her father. While the novel’s events can be confusing, in the end, they weave together beautifully to create a unified and coherent narrative that will lead readers eager to turn the next page.
Main Messages Conveyed
The Pains and Joys of Motherhood
From the very first page, Ng makes it clear to her readers that when she wrote Little Fires Everywhere, she hoped to go beyond merely entertaining her readers. The novel also explores important subjects. Among these subjects are the pains and joys that mothers experience. She develops this theme through the experiences of Mia, a mother whose struggles echo those of other women are unable to provide their children with the pleasures and conveniences that money affords. Single mothers will particularly find that the book resonates with them.
In addition to providing single and other struggling mothers with a role model that they can relate to and emulate, Little Fires Everywhere also sheds light on the lengths that mothers will go to protect their children. For example, the novel lets readers in on Mia’s secret. Years before the events in the novel, Mia had agreed to serve as a surrogate for a wealthy but barren couple. After forming a close relationship with the child, she recognized that she could not give her up and lied to the couple that she had miscarried. This lie serves as the foundation for the novel and represents the great burdens that women bear as they love, protect, and sustain their children.
Ng develops the theme of the struggles and pleasures that mothers experience further through the revelation at the conclusion of the novel that Mia finally agrees to let her daughter meet the father. Her decision is important as it shows that even when they find certain courses of action to be painful, mothers take these decisions as they strive to serve the best interests of their children. There is no question that Little Fires Everywhere can be a vital resource for mothers who are grappling with dilemmas about how best to bring up their children.
The Politics of Surrogacy
Perhaps the most important topic that Little Fires Everywhere addresses is the politics of surrogacy. The novel makes it clear that surrogacy is not some mere transactional exchange of children. Emotions are involved. For example, despite initially agreeing to give up her daughter that she conceived as a surrogate, Mia flatly refuses to surrender her. While questions can be raised about Mia’s character, what is clear is that she is a loving mother. More importantly, her actions and the tremendous love that she displays helps readers to sympathize with surrogates.
The role that money plays in the surrogacy process is yet another element that Ng leads her readers in reflecting on. Through her focus on the life of Mia, Ng indicates that surrogacy places poor women at great risk of exploitation. After giving birth, they are discarded. The book enables readers to understand that surrogacy is an industry that purports to empower desperate women while the truth is that it actually exploits their vulnerability.
There are numerous issues that enable Little Fires Everywhere to stand above other books that address similar themes. Among the main strengths of the novel is that it tells compelling and important stories through characters that are relatable. Many readers will particularly sympathize with Mia, a divisive character whose love for her daughter is heartwarming but may struggled to earn the confidence of some readers who find her to be to an unreliable, untrustworthy and the ultimate symbol of selfishness. Despite these flaws, Mia is certainly an intriguing character who helps Ng to convey her message.
Another strength that Little Fires Everywhere possesses is that it tackles problems that many readers will be drawn toward. For instance, as noted earlier, the novel confronts such issues as surrogacy and how it particularly afflicts poor and defenseless women. In sharing this message, the novel relies on a combination of drama and sober narration. Reading the book, audiences will understand why Ng continues to receive accolades for her literary prowess.
The fact that it lacks a clear hero is another issue that enhances the appeal of Little Fires Everywhere. Instead of presenting its characters as pure, the novel makes it clear that the characters are complex, with lots of nuances. It leaves it to readers to make their own moral judgments regarding the characters.
Shortcomings and Limitations
There are some problems that hold Little Fires Everywhere back from reaching wider audiences. Among the limitations of this novel is that it is heavily packed. Instead of focusing on a single perspective or narrative, Ng bombards readers with too many stories, plots, and perspectives. While some readers may find that the complexity of the novel adds to its richness, many will lament that the novel is simply too saturated and that it lacks a clear focus.
In conclusion, Little Fires Everywhere is one of the few books that readers can still recollect months after reading it. It breaks down complex subjects into portions that readers find palatable and easier to digest. Whereas the novel may struggle to find acceptance among some audiences, it will definitely interest readers looking for help in celebrating motherhood and who feel that more needs to be done to crackdown on the global surrogacy trade.