Little Fires Everywhere

THE BOOK:

efjsffslfI was so excited when I heard that there was going to be a new Celeste Ng book in 2017, so when I finally got it, I devoured it. Thank goodness for lousy weather so I don’t have to feel guilty about spending all my waking hours indoors reading. This book is similar to Everything I Never Told You in that it explores relationships among family members, friends, and the larger community. People present themselves to their world in different ways. We can be charming and delightful to the rest of the world, while at the same time being angry and resentful to our family. And then, there’s the notion of what we think we show to other people about ourselves in contrast to how they interpret what they see. So everyone’s reality is very fluid and unpredictable, begging the questions, do we every really know another person, let alone do we ever really know ourselves?

Shaker Heights outside of Chicago is a planned community that was originally the North Union Community of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, commonly known as Shakers. The colony eventually faded away and closed in 1889. Shakers, after all, were celibates, with no steady stream of potential acolytes to increase their numbers. When the Van Sweringen brothers bought the land in 1905, their vision was the first garden style suburb in Ohio. Strict building codes and zoning laws have helped maintain the community’s identity over the years.  The author mentions rules that the color of the exterior of different styles of homes are allowed to be painted; there are fines for not mowing your lawn in a timely fashion (good thing we don’t live there); the driveways are designed so that garbage is never in the front of the house. Order and rules rule! We are introduced to the Richardson family: Elena and Bill, and their children, Lexie, Trip and Moody. Things start to get interesting in the community when Mia, an artist, and her teen-aged daughter, Pearl, rent a duplex owned by the Richardsons. Essentially, a contest ensues between order (Richardsons) and free-spirited living where the rules that govern behavior are more gray than black and white (Mia and Pearl). It is very telling that the Richardson’s matriarch, Elena, is referred to as “Mrs. Richardson” throughout the narrative.

When I finished the book, I still wasn’t finished with the book. It stayed with me and I found myself wondering about Izzie (youngest Richardson), and how her relationship with her mother set her on a dangerous, perhaps lonely path. Bottom line, I love that this book made me think about my own relationships after experiencing the conflicts in this book. Again, I can’t wait for the next Ng book. Keep them coming, please!

THE BEAUTY:

This was a tough one. I thought about Shaker Heights being beautiful, but the thought of it oppresses me and makes me feel claustrophobic and short of breath. But when I thought about the origin of the place and how “Simple Gifts” was taught in their schools so that students would make the connection to those who had founded the community, I thought I might be onto something. When I typed in “Simple Gifts” one of the first links to come up was to the video below. I love Yoyo Ma, and the Silk Road, and Alison Krauss’s voice is delicately, simply, beautiful .

This video was put together on April 29, 2014 by Vicki Burns. It features photography of Oregon.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

THE FOOD:

Mia worked at the Lucky Palace Chinese restaurant. She was able to make ends meet to feed Pearl and herself with the leftovers that the restaurant would have discarded at the end of each day. The recipe below for repurposed lo mein is not Mia’s. She added Ragu spaghetti sauce and who knows what else, and THAT did not appeal to me. This is actually pretty good, and I started with leftovers from our local favorite Chinese restaurant. (Finally, a simple recipe! See what I’ve done there, referencing the song above?)

Repurposed Lo Mein

Leftover lo mein
Frozen broccoli, peas and carrots, or whatever vegetables you choose
Garlic
Olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes

Chop up garlic, and defrost some broccoli in the microwave. Drain the water from the broccoli. Saute garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil in a frying pan for a couple of minutes until the garlic is fragrant and softened. Then, add the defrosted broccoli to the pan.

Once your broccoli is sautéed through, add the lo mein and continue to sauté until the lo mein is warmed all the way through. Serve with condiments of your choice, like soy sauce or sriracha.

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