When we meet someone new, you might think you know details about them but this show highlights how little the surface tells us about human experiences. When Elena meets Mia on the streets outside of the store, she thinks she’s a struggling mother whom she pegs as her save a neighbor project. Little does she know, Mia knows exactly who Elena is, and even more to the point, she knows where her family lives as well. The tv show is adapted from a novel written by Celeste Ng.
Book synopsis: In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
There are four maternal stories at play when we enter Shaker. Understanding that a mother’s choice can take over and take on a life of its own spewing flames and spatters onto anyone or anything in its path has never been better portrayed than in Little Fires Everywhere. Elena has a lesbian daughter she named Isabelle. While everyone knows ‘Izzy’ is not your average fifteen year old, her mother chooses to see her only through the perfection she wishes to thwart onto her. Perfect clothes, gorgeous house, and a perfect holiday card. When Izzy chucks the bird secretly in the photo and Elena sees the portraits, she cuts her daughter out of the family photo, and her heart. Izzy finds a mother in Mia, whose daughter is Pearl, whom she conceived through selling her eggs to a Black family then high tails it with the child lying about her survival at birth. Pearl desperately wants to understand more about her father. She also quietly finds comfort in spending time at Elena’s house, and finds herself in a love triangle with Izzy’s two older brothers Tripp and Moody.
There is an interesting race ratio in Shaker, which creates a landscape for Elena’s older daughter and her official mini me, Lexie, to date a Black classmate, Brian. Elena introduces Brian to her circle as an African-American. This gives Pearl some insight on how open and honest The Richardson family seems to be on the surface. It bothers Pearl that Mia does not see The Richardson’s as good upstanding people who love each other and their kids. At a party for Elena’s best friend, who just became the mother of a Chinese-American adopted baby girl, Mia recognizes the child. Her birth mother is Mia’s co-worker Bebe Chow. Bebe represents an ill-fit mother or she might represent a scared confused and lonely single parent who made a decision to leave her baby at a fire house in a moment of weakness. She now wants her daughter back.
The adoption cases creates the unfortunate recipe for exposed secrets that eventually led to The Richardson’s house burning down. When her officer pal asks her who she thinks burned down her house while her family was still inside, Elena sadly replies, “I did.”
The show is produced by Washington and Witherspoon’s production companies. Together, they are a guiding light for female storytellers around the World. We hope to see them at the Emmy Awards, fingers crossed.
Stream Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu.