Little Fires Everywhere

“Some years later, she would drive five and a half hours, daughter in tow, to the great March on Washington, and Mrs Richardson would forever remember that day, the sun forcing her eyes into a squint, the scrum of people pressed thigh to thigh, the hot fug of sweat rising from the crowd, the Washington Monument rising far off in the distance, like a spike stretching the pierce the clouds.”

This is from Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I thought it one of the best sentences I have read in a while. Fug is a bit of english slang for a strong smell in an enclosed space. It naturally follows the use of scrum, a rugby term, a british sport, a word that completely describes bodies thrown together. Such a rich little moment in a book with lots of things happening.

The book won the Goodreads Choice Award for fiction in 2017. I wonder at times their selections, Goodreads seems to have too universal a membership to be able to consistently choose books that I find worthwhile. I mean, I read Where the Crawdads Sing at their recommendation and still don’t feel like forgiving them. I know Horace said, “To inform and to entertain” and that to be snobbish towards romance stories and mystery and crime drama is a weak position to take, but I think literature ought have a purpose. It seems as if it should, to me anyway. 

This time though, with Little Fires, I think Goodreads got it right. I don’t recall why, but what I could glean from the reviews kind of put me off of reading the book. I found a copy at the Goodwill and hung on to it for a few weeks before I started reading. Celeste Ng, pronounced “ing,” certainly wrote a strong professional book. I think it speaks to many emotional subjects in a family setting and with some pretty big life questions as well. I don’t do spoilers, read the book.

I will say that it dredged up some strange emotions. Somehow I remembered the week my Mother was dying. Our relationship was fairly strained and never really made right. But my brother and sister and I spent the last week of her life with our Mom, over thanksgiving the year she died. It was a very strange thing and another source of turmoil and confusion in the relationship, something I still have not figured out, all these years later.
I was away from St Louis for a week and when I returned soon spent an evening at the Taproom downtown. This was before microbreweries were prevalent, before you could find more than AB products at the 7-11, so I had been a week without a good dark beer. I was a regular at the Taproom and an oatmeal stout drinker then, so attuned to the beer that I could tell when they changed from one keg to the next. That first sip after I had returned to St Louis brought me to tears at the bar, not for my mother so much, but for having a life that was important to me, completely apart from my mother. Somehow, this book brought that memory out of me, though I can see no connection at all to the story. Ng got to that idea though, and loss, and choices. I am glad of the reading of this, despite my initial reservations. 

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