Everything was perfect, until it wasn’t. Ever run into that reality before? Of course, we have, half of literature and artistic expression is dedicated to rooting out the story behind the story. It’s not until the ever-scrutinizing eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg direct their focus, that the seamy underbelly within the moment becomes exposed (two whoops for my “Great Gatsby” fans out there). This scrutinization offers up the same question time and time again. “What Lies Beneath?” This is not just a Harrison Ford film that examines the cracks in perfection, but, actually, a question that drives the human mind. Humanity continues to find itself delving deeper to uncover the hidden realities that surround us.
Interestingly, this intrinsic need to discover is juxtaposed with our need for clarity, simplicity, and the belief in achieved perfection through careful planning. Nowhere is this compulsion for planned perfection more evident than in planned communities. Planned communities strive to create an aesthetically pleasing locale through the exclusion of whatever they deem undesirable. And people flock to this ideal of ordered perfection; all the while, forgetting or ignoring to tend the imperfections that lie just below the well-kept surface. Which brings me to the book I am currently consuming. “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng is an entrancing novel about one such planned community. Shaker Heights in Cleveland, Ohio is one of the oldest planned communities in the nation, dating back to 1911. And, it is upon this very real backdrop that Ng’s stage is set.
In Ng’s skillfully written novel we discover layer upon layer of fires simmering just under the idyllic exterior of Shaker Heights. Right off the bat, readers are presented with one such fire. This fire, though, is a house fire that provokes a few questions. Who lite the fire? Why did they light the fire? And the smoldering answers arise one ember at time. This book is a great book club read as the answers that are sought for in the novel, are not easily found, and the realities that one reader may choose could be wildly different from another.
I recently read a quote from an article published on the BBC website that explored another great example of teeming little fires, “Wuthering Heights.” The article stated that, “(L)iterature – especially the really good stuff…is the very best teacher, embedding its messages in our hearts and minds under the cloak of cracking storytelling and indelible imagery” (Heathcliff and literature’s greatest love story are toxic, July 30, 2018). “Little Fires Everywhere” is one of those subliminally sneaky teachers passing along its message rooted in fabulous storytelling.
Anderson, Hephzibah. (July 30,2018). Heathcliff and literature’s greatest love story are toxic. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180725-heathcliff-and-literatures-greatest-love-story-are-toxic