Celeste Ng set reading lists ablaze with her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere. The “complex and compulsively readable suburban saga” (Boston Globe) topped the New York Times bestseller list and was hailed as one of the best books of 2017 by everyone from Entertainment Weekly to The Washington Post. If you loved Ng’s darkly layered drama, here are nine rich and compelling books like Little Fires Everywhere that you’re sure to enjoy.
9 Books Like Little Fires Everywhere
These gripping reads will hook you just like Celeste Ng’s bestseller.
By Alexis Schaitkin
Alexis Schaitkin’s debut was a New York Times Notable Book of 2020, and it’s easy to see why. Much like Little Fires Everywhere, the novel weaves together themes of grief, obsession, and privilege into a riveting narrative of family trauma and healing. The novel opens on the Caribbean island of Saint X, where young Claire and her family are enjoying a luxury beach vacation. On the final night of the holiday, however, Claire’s older sister Alison disappears. Days later, Alison’s body turns up in a nearby cay. The case captures media headlines as two local men are arrested and charged with murder — but with little evidence against them, they’re eventually released. Years later, a now adult Claire is still haunted by Alison’s unsolved death when she crosses paths with one of the men originally suspected of murdering her sister. The fateful encounter sets Claire on an obsessive quest for answers — not just about how her sister truly died, but about who she really was. We cannot wait for Schaitkin’s second novel, Elsewhere, to hit shelves in June 2022.
A Nearly Normal Family
By M.T. Edvardsson
Sweden’s M.T. Edvardsson combines the pulse-pounding pace of a legal thriller with a stirring domestic drama in this “compulsively readable tour de force” (The Wall Street Journal). Similar to Little Fires Everywhere, A Nearly Normal Family asks how well we truly know those closest to us — and how far we’d go to protect them. The novel centers on Stella Sandell, a seemingly ordinary teenager from an upstanding family who’s accused of brutally killing a businessman almost 15 years her senior. The murder sends shockwaves through the Sandells’ well-to-do community, and it leaves Stella’s parents, a criminal defense attorney and a pastor, grasping for answers. How could their daughter do such a thing? As the investigation unfolds, the Sandells must reckon with one another and decide how far they’re willing to go to defend the family name.
By Jean Hanff Korelitz
Celeste Ng fans will devour this “insanely readable” (Stephen King) literary psychological thriller by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Like Little Fires Everywhere, The Plot is all about how the secrets of the past have a way of catching up with us. The novel follows a writer named Jacob Finch Bonner, a once-rising literary star who now teaches at a third-rate writing program and is desperate to revive his career. So when Jacob learns of the death of one of his most talented students, he decides to steal the young man’s book idea and claim it as his own. Sure enough, Jacob’s newest work of fiction is a blockbuster success. But when a stranger threatens to destroy Jacob’s livelihood by exposing his secret, Jacob must track down the origins of the plot and the truth about his mysterious former student if he hopes to survive. Jean Hanff Korelitz’s next riveting read, The Latecomer, is a literary family drama and will be released in May 2022.
By Chip Cheek
If you loved Little Fires’ vivid sense of place and pointed examination of middle-class family dynamics, then you’ll enjoy Chip Cheek’s mesmerizing debut, Cape May. Set in 1957, the novel introduces us to Henry and Effie, a newlywed couple from the American South who travel to the seaside enclave of Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon. Of course, timing is everything: The modest couple arrive in Cape May during its off-season and find the beach town practically deserted. That is, until they meet their beguiling neighbors. There’s Clara, the glamorous socialite; Max, Clara’s ritzy playboy lover; and Alma, Max’s mysterious half sister. It isn’t long before Henry and Effie comingle with the sophisticated trio next door, seduced by their high drama and libertine lifestyle. But as the raucous days and wild nights in the emptied beach town escalate, Henry and Effie risk altering their marriage forever.
Big Little Lies
By Liane Moriarty
At its heart, Little Fires Everywhere is a study in contrasts between free-spirited single mother Mia Warren and uptight mother of four Elena Richardson. Similarly, Liane Moriarty’s bestselling domestic thriller Big Little Lies centers on a circle of women with distinct personalities and secrets to hide, from entitled queen bee Madeline to the heartbreaking Celeste and the mysterious young newcomer Jane. Added to the mix are heavy doses of drama and a splendid murder mystery, alongside unflinching examinations of modern-day motherhood and the harsh realities of domestic abuse. The result is a razor-sharp page-turner that fans of Little Fires Everywhere will likely tear through in a single sitting.
Ask Again, Yes
By Mary Beth Keane
Both Little Fires Everywhere and Ask Again, Yes explore the interconnection between two families and the impact that past traumas have on our present-day relationships. Mary Beth Keane’s bestselling narrative, however, tracks this domestic saga over the course of decades. The novel introduces us to Francis and Lena Gleeson and Brian and Anne Stanhope, two young families who live side by side in the suburbs. Together, the Gleesons and the Stanhopes move through the years, raising their children as they grapple with the daily intimacies of marriage and the challenges of adulthood. Years later, the Gleesons and the Stanhopes grow even closer when their fully grown children fall in love. Then a shocking event fractures the bond between both families and calls everything into question.
By Madeline Stephens
Spellbound by the theme of obsession coursing through Little Fires Everywhere? Like Ng’s bestseller, Madeline Stephens’ Devotion follows two women, one of whom develops an unhealthy fixation on the other. The novel centers on Ella, a broke 26-year-old in New York City who just landed a job nannying for an affluent married couple on the Upper East Side. Wife Lonnie and husband James lead a life that’s worlds apart from Ella’s existence. And yet, Lonnie is the same age as Ella, so naturally a rapport develops between the two. But what begins as a budding friendship quickly escalates to obsession as Ella starts combing through Lonnie’s belongings, searching for the secret to her seemingly effortless way of life. As Ella’s obsession spirals, she develops an intense attraction and hatred toward Lonnie that threatens to consume them both.
By Lisa Ko
In her award-winning debut The Leavers, Lisa Ko delivers a stirring meditation on family and belonging that’s sure to resonate with Little Fires Everywhere fans. The novel centers on Deming Guo, an 11-year-old boy in the Bronx whose undocumented immigrant mother Polly vanishes without a trace one day after leaving for work. Young Deming needs a guardian, and he is eventually adopted by a well-meaning couple in upstate New York, relocated, and stripped of his birth name in favor of the more Americanized “Daniel Wilkinson.” The novel, told from the perspective of both Daniel and his mother, is particularly effective at examining themes of assimilation, sacrifice, and identity. Much like Mia in Little Fires Everywhere, Polly is both a loving mother and a woman weighed down by difficult life decisions from her past.
By Christine Mangan
The final book on our list is Tangerine, the bestselling novel by Christine Mangan. Like Little Fires Everywhere, Tangerine is a thrilling domestic drama rich with complex characters, murky pasts, and a vibrant sense of place. The novel is set in 1950s Tangier, Morocco, where Alice Shipley lives with her husband, John. Alice has left her old life behind to live in Morocco — so when Lucy Mason, Alice’s former roommate, arrives unannounced in Tangier, Alice is wary. She isn’t keen on reconnecting with Lucy or reviving their fraught friendship. Inevitably, however, Alice slips back into Lucy’s dark orbit. Then John goes missing, and Alice’s own mind begins to unravel, as unsettled traumas resurface to wreak havoc on the present.