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Little Fires Everywhere: A Complete Summary
Celeste Ng’s novel Little Fires Everywhere takes place in Shaker Heights, Ohio in the summer of 1997. On a Saturday in May, the Richardson family home was burned down by Izzy Richardson, the youngest of their four teenage children. Her mother, the only family member inside the house when the fires were lit, and her three older siblings- Lexie, Trip, and Moody- watched as their house burned down from across the street. In this moment, the siblings had been too distracted by the fire and their sister’s involvement in it to consider the whereabouts of Mia and Pearl. Mrs. Richardson had yet to tell her children of their departure of the night before, and Moody wondered if his family would ever see Izzy again.
One year earlier, in June of 1996, Mia and Pearl Warren had moved into the top unit of Mrs. Richardson’s rental house. Mrs. Richardson only rented to people in need of her charity, and Mia was a single mother with a gifted daughter in need of a good education. They settled in and learned the many rules of living in Shaker Heights. The philosophy behind the suburb was one of planned perfection, and Mia and Pearl, with their nomadic past and eccentric tendencies, were not its typical residents. Moody was the first of the Richardson children to visit the Warrens and develop an interest in their unfamiliar way of life. Pearl and Moody became the best of friends, and although Moody was deeply attracted to Pearl, she developed a strong liking for his older brother, Trip, instead. Lexie also became fascinated by Pearl's timid naïveté, and she pitied her, so she took her shopping and invited her to a Halloween party. To Mia's dissatisfaction, Pearl arrived home from the party past curfew, smelling of smoke and alcohol, and grew cautious of the relationships Pearl was creating with the Richardson children. When Mrs. Richardson offered Mia a new job as their housekeeper, Mia accepted it. Despite Mrs. Richardson’s condescending tone, she took advantage of the opportunity to monitor her daughter's whereabouts. While working the new job, Mia met the youngest Richardson child, Izzy, and listened to her story empathically. Izzy had been suspended from school the day before for standing up to her teacher's racist and verbally abusive behavior. Mia asked Izzy a life-changing question: "What are you going to do about it? Izzy related to and confided in Mia, and after Izzy became Mia's photography assistant, Izzy's demeanor changed for the brighter.
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