addabook home timeline gallery
signup or login
Little Fires Everywhere
Celeste Ng
read on October 11, 2018

Sometimes at work I think about how almost every single problem I have, and frankly almost everything I do there, is just an effort to reduce friction in communication. Obviously "meetings" are just an effort to communicate, so is email, so is conversation - but even when I'm "working", what I'm really doing is trying to figure out how to do something, or how something works - things that other people, somewhere, already know. Sometimes I marvel at how much we could increase overall productivity by just making very small incremental improvements to communication. If we could reduce the friction, and increase the accuracy, of information exchange, such that we just "knew" what other people know - boy oh boy.

I was reminded by that a lot while reading this book. Little Fires Everywhere is fantastic. It's exceptionally well written, has great characters, and has a plot that really keeps you coming back for more - I went through this book very quickly. What it really excels at though is showing several sides to each situation. Every moral conflict in the book is first told from one perspective (letting the reader get on that character's 'side', as it were), and then re-spun and told from the other character's perspective, and you're made to feel like a schmuck and now realize that in fact, character #2 is 'correct', etc. It's very deftly done. At the end, you're left with many complex characters, whose motivations you understand, and all of whom you can empathize with quite well.

But the fact of it is, they're all good characters. No one is evil in this book. Some folks are unlikable, but in pity-able ways. This is really a book full of good people, with good intentions, who are, by all measures, trying to do good things. I'm left thinking that if they could all reduce the friction of their communication - if they just knew what the intentions and motivations of the other characters were, if they just talked to each other more - then they would have all avoided so much pain.

And really, in that way, the book is quite sad. It shows so explicitly how we can all have the best of intentions, and still be capable of hurting each other so much.

Author Bio:

Celeste Ng is a writer in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (It's pronounced -ing.)