These thoughtful Little Fires Everywhere discussion questions are bound to get your book club talking about this complex work of modern fiction that deeply explores themes like motherhood, race, and class.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is a #1 New York Times bestseller; a Best Book of the Year by: People, The Washington Post, Bustle, Esquire, Southern Living, The Daily Beast, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Audible, Goodreads, Library Reads, Book of the Month, Paste, Kirkus Reviews, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and many more; a Reese’s book club pick, one of my favorite AAPI books, one of my favorite family drama books, one of my favorite character-driven novels, one of my favorite books about mothers, and an amazing HULU tv series adaptation.
If you haven’t watched it yet, below is the trailer:
Little Fires Everywhere Summary
Briefly, Little Fires Everywhere is the story of the Shaker Heights, Ohio, planned community during the course of a year in the 1990s. At the center is Elena Richardson, the matriarch of a white upper-class family with four teenage children: Lexie, Trip, Moody, and Izzy.
The story begins not just with a little fire, but with the burning down of the Richardson home. Then, it delves into how the characters got there.
Elena is a very tightly wound rule follower who sees herself as a “do-gooder,” renting a duplex to a Black single mother, Mia Warren, and her teenage daughter, Pearl.
The two families bond, particularly the children, but the mothers begin to clash when a heated custody battle in their community places them on opposing sides of the aisle.
Dark secrets are revealed and Elena’s and Mia’s families are jeopardized in the process of touching upon motherhood, class, race, and identity in this small suburban neighborhood in which everyone is involved in everyone else’s business.
And, as the reader knows from the first page, the results are explosive.
Little Fires Everywhere is the type of book you find yourself reading compulsively yet also thinking about for years to come in your life (I certainly did!)
Because of how multi-layered it is and how rich the characters are, I was able to easily come up with so many book club questions for your discussions.
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Little Fires Everywhere Discussion Questions
Use the following Little Fires Everywhere discussion questions to guide your conversations about this complex book:
The novel starts out by telling the reader a home has burned. Did you like this early reveal of what was to come or would you have preferred to learn of this as the action unfolded?
By the end of Little Fires Everywhere, the reader knows the literal significance of the title. Discuss the figurative significance.
How is the theme of motherhood explored through the characters?
How is the theme of race explored through the characters?
How is the theme of class explored through the characters?
How are these themes explored differently through the adults versus the teenagers in Little Fires Everywhere?
Discuss the similarities and differences between Mia and Elena.
Discuss the positive and negative character traits of Mia and Elena.
How do Mia and Elena see themselves, and are their assessments correct?
Discuss the similarities and differences between the four Richardson children: Lexie, Trip, Moody, and Izzy.
Is Izzy a “bad” child?
Why does Pearl gravitate towards the Richardsons?
Why does Moody gravitate towards Pearl?
Why does Izzy gravitate towards Mia?
What causes tension between Elena and Izzy?
Discuss the role of art in Little Fires Everywhere.
Did you empathize most with the storyline of one particular mother in this book?
In complex situations, is motherhood based more on biology, love, money, or something else?
How does the time period of the 1990s affect the storyline?
Discuss Shaker Heights (a planned community) and its importance as the setting for this story.
How may another setting impact the storyline?
Are the mothers in Little Fires Everywhere bound by their pasts?
What point(s) do you think this novel is trying to make about secrets?
Was Mia right in keeping secrets from Pearl?
Could this story have happened somewhere other than a planned community?
How much right does a community have to become involved in the lives of its members?
Did you favor either side in the custody battle case between Mirabelle McCullough and May Ling Chow?
Discuss Mia’s and Elena’s perspectives on the case and what shaped them.
Discuss Elena’s relationship with each of her children, and why they differed.
Discuss the difference between the intention and the impact of the characters’ actions.
Did your perspective on any of the characters change by end of this novel?
Do you leave the novel feeling sympathy for any of the characters?
What is the lesson or lessons to be learned from Little Fires Everywhere?
Do you think the characters will leave these events as changed people for the better?
What do you think may happen next in the lives of these characters?
Did you watch the HULU adaptation and, if so, what were your thoughts about it?
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