Whether you devoured the book in 2017 or binged the Hulu adaptation in 2020, you couldn’t get enough of the characters Celeste Ng created in her best-selling novel Little Fires Everywhere. For the uninitiated, it’s about two families in the seemingly progressive Shaker Heights, Ohio—the picture-perfect Richardsons and Mia and her daughter Pearl—and the secrets and lies that connect them. If you’re a fan of novels that tackle complicated family dynamics, socioeconomic differences and questions of identity, assimilation and belonging, read on for 12 books that touch on similar themes.
12 Books Like ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ If You’re Still Not Over Celeste Ng’s Bestseller
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Ng’s first book is set in 1970s Ohio, where a Chinese-American family is rocked by the disappearance of its favorite daughter. When her body is found in the local lake, the Lees’ carefully crafted façade is destroyed. What follows is a moving and sensitive family portrait about the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle to understand one another.
When Myriam decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for a nanny for their son and daughter. They feel lucky to find Louise, a quiet, polite and devoted woman. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on one another, jealousy, resentment and suspicions shatter the illusion of perfection. Slimani’s chilling novel explores power, class, race, motherhood and more.
This bestseller tells the story of Alix Chamberlain, a white woman, and Emira Tucker, her black babysitter, who gets racially profiled at a grocery store while watching Alix’s daughter one night. As the story unfolds, questions around race, white privilege and tokenism emerge as the two women grapple with their identities and their relationship to one another.
The widowed Julia and her teenage daughter, Gwen, are an insular team, until Julia meets James, a handsome doctor. Gwen hates his guts. But when Gwen and James’s son, Nathan, become unlikely bedfellows, the story takes on darker, modern-day Greg and Marcia Brady vibes. Segal nails the complicated nuances of blending together two very different families.
Whether or not you've watched the HBO series, Big Little Lies is an excellent conversation starter. Moriarty delves into serious topics (domestic abuse, female friendships, murder) with her trademark wit and dark humor in this hit 2014 book. Anyone with a kid or two will find it extremely relatable, and after you finish it, you can analyze whether Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and crew were perfectly cast (spoiler: they probably were).
The last person Alice expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy. After an accident, the two once-inseparable friends haven't spoken in over a year. Nevertheless, Lucy is trying to make things right and helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country. But soon a familiar feeling creeps in: Alice feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice's husband goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with Lucy, her decision to come to Tangier and her own state of mind.
What’s the best way to forget your own family dysfunction? Dive into someone else’s. This enthralling tale is about the lifelong friendship and love between neighbors Kate and Peter, born six months apart. One shocking night, their loyalties are divided and their bond will be tested again and again over the next 30 years.
Nadia, Luke and Aubrey are three young people coming of age in a tight-knit, predominantly Black community in Southern California. After moving across the country for college and law school, Nadia returns to her hometown, where she’s forced to confront unfinished business from her youth. Told partly by Nadia and partly by a judgmental chorus of women from church (the titular “Mothers”), Bennett’s novel is sad and wise, tackling themes of secrets, loyalty and the lasting impact of the decisions we make when we’re young.
Zadie Smith is a master of building familial conflict. Nowhere is that skill more on display than in On Beauty, where the families of two rival professors get tangled up in all sorts of ways. It’s a novel about race, class and academia, but also very much about individuals trying to define themselves outside the family unit.
Stanley is a father, husband, ex-husband and lover of luxury. After he’s diagnosed with cancer, his family is forced to examine what they value the most. (Spoiler: Probably not all-inclusive vacations.)
Leda is a middle-aged mother of two grown daughters. After they move overseas to be with their father, she’s forced to grapple with past damage (both suffered and inflicted by her) and devastating maternal ambivalence. In true Ferrante fashion, it sucks you in from the very first page.
Meet the Wangs: a wealthy, Chinese-American family who loses everything in the 2008 financial crisis. In Chang’s big-hearted, hilarious debut, they leave their foreclosed Bel-Air home and head out on a cross-country road trip in a desperate attempt to start over and save face.
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