Thursday Book feature: Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere

By Celeste Ng

Copyright 2017

 

In 1998, the Richardson family is happily living in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. Then Miah, a nomadic artist, and her teen-aged daughter rent a house from Mrs. Richardson. When one of Miah’s co-workers sues the state for custody of a baby she abandoned a little over a year ago, Miah and Mrs. Richardson are on opposite sides of the debate. Then Mrs. Richardson discovers a secret Miah has been harboring for years.

When the book opens, the Richardson home has just been destroyed by a fire, and the family is left homeless. Then it shifts to the previous year, detailing events leading to the fire. I found this disappointing because I then had an idea of how the book would end. I considered not finishing it, but curiosity drove me onward. Although I like the author’s depiction of Shaker Heights as a perfect little town, I don’t appreciate the way she inserts narrative during crucial dialog. In most cases, this narrative explains how characters feel, which, from what is being said, should already be obvious to the reader. The ending is unsatisfactory.

On the other hand, I liked the way Ng tells the story from the point of view of each character. She gives the reader a glimpse into each of their minds, even that of the Richardson’s youngest daughter who is often misunderstood. She also tries to help us understand why Miah feels the woman who abandoned her baby should have the right to take the child away from loving parents, unable to have children of their own, who want to adopt her. Despite its drawbacks, this book is a compelling, thought-provoking read.

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 Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

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To Ana on Prom Night

It’s that time of year again, believe it or not. I was inspired to write the following poem when my sister-in-law posted a picture of my niece and her prom date. You can click on the title to hear me read it.

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TO ANA ON Prom NIGHT

You two are a striking couple,
standing in an embrace, smiling,
dressed in your junior prom finery.

Was it just yesterday
when your mother and my brother
posed for a similar photo on their wedding day?
At fourteen,
you were the maid of honor, remember?

Now, you’re growing up fast.
Before we know it,
you’ll be attending your senior prom,
then graduation, college, life
with so much ahead.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Life at Fifteen

I recently heard an interesting story on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. This was the last in a series of interviews with girls around the world about what it’s like for them to be fifteen and their hopes for the future. This time, the reporter talked to girls at a high school in Silver Spring, Maryland. To hear this, go to http://www.npr.org/2015/11/01/453739538/-15-girls-american-girls-open-up-about-their-lives-their-hopes .

I was kicked out of a bar on my fifteenth birthday. My parents and younger brother Andy were with me. We had a lovely dinner at the Historic Sheridan Inn. A man played the organ and sang, and I requested one of my favorite songs. When I heard the familiar opening accompaniment, I was so excited that I knocked my Coke into my lap. To hear me sing this song with guitar accompaniment, go to https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/please%20mister%20please.mp3 .

At home earlier, Dad taught me how to dance so after dinner, we strutted our stuff along with other happy couples. When the dining room closed, we wandered into the bar where another man was playing the guitar and singing. We found a table, and Dad ordered Coke for me and Andy and something alcoholic for himself and Mother. The manager appeared and said, “Gee, I hate to tell you this, but after ten o’clock, no kids.”

It wasn’t the first time that happened, but because it was my birthday, it was especially disappointing. As far as I was concerned, that special day was ruined. As Dad guided me out the door though, he said, “Well, when you get up on that stage with your own guitar, you can tell your audience that story.” That was my aspiration back then, to be a singer like Olivia Newton-John.

Thirty-nine years later in August of this year, I took the stage with my guitar during Sheridan’s Third Thursday Festival downtown and told my audience that story, much to their amusement. I didn’t become a best-selling recording artist like Olivia-Newton-John, but maybe I’ll be a best-selling author. Who knows?

What was life like for you at fifteen? What were your hopes for the future? Did your parents have any ideas about what you should be, or did they support your aspirations? Please feel free to share in the comment field below.

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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That’s Life

Last Christmas while visiting my brother and his family in Jupiter, Florida, we planned a trip to West Palm Beach to see a production of The Nutcracker. My thirteen-year-old niece wanted to go shopping and stay overnight with a friend instead of accompanying her family to some boring ballet. The ensuing argument between her and her mother inspired the title poem in my chapbook, That’s Life: New and Selected Poems, due to be released by Finishing Line Press at the end of August.

THAT’S LIFE

For Anna

Oh you of thirteen years,

when told you can’t go to the mall

or sleep over with a friend,

please understand that’s the way life is.

If you grow up thinking

you’ll always have your way,

you’ll be sadly disappointed

so better put on your big girl pants—

deal with it.

Do you remember when you were thirteen? How about when your children or grandchildren were thirteen?

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Pre-order my new chapbook today!