Celeste Ng

Every author has a story beyond the one that they put down on paper. The Barnes & Noble Podcast goes between the lines with today’s most interesting writers, exploring what inspires them, what confounds them, and what they were thinking when they wrote the books we’re talking about.

In the summer of 2014, Celeste Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You became a nationwide bestseller and was tagged on multiple best-of-the-year lists, as the story of a teenage girl gone missing from her 1970s middle-class household became a container for a novel of big ideas about prejudice and privilege.

Now class, race, and motherhood take center stage in her new novel, Little Fires Everywhere. The author sat down with Miwa Messer to talk about how she turned a tale of scandal in an affluent Midwestern suburb into a map of 21st-century American discontents.

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In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Click here to see all books by Celeste Ng.

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Photo of Celeste Ng © Kevin Day

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