I consider both Sally Rooney and Celeste Ng to be two of my favorite authors, though I’ll admit in both cases I prefer their debut novel over their sophomore efforts. When NORMAL PEOPLE and LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE were adapted for the small screen, I knew I needed to revisit them!
NORMAL PEOPLE by Sally Rooney
First Read: May 2019
My second read of Sally Rooney’s NORMAL PEOPLE proved much better than the first! I wanted to re-read this one not only because of the recently-released Hulu series but also because I remember not loving it quite as much as Rooney’s debut, CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS, a novel I absolutely adored when I first read it. Luckily, I thoroughly enjoyed NORMAL PEOPLE this time around; I devoured it in two days whilst swinging on the hammock, whereas my first read stretched out over a few weeks- one of the many problems of being a mood reader!
With this re-read, I found myself with a larger appreciation for the main characters, Marianne and Connell, whom I didn’t necessarily get along with in my first read. I especially enjoyed seeing their multi-faceted relationship pan out. One of the most successful elements of NORMAL PEOPLE is its structure; Rooney visits Connell and Marianne for a scene every few months over a period of five years or so, in a way that allows the reader to track their relationship over time. In my first reading, I was put off by this time-jump structure, but this time around I grew to appreciate Rooney’s playful experiment and the way in which she portrays such a realistic, modern romance. Everyone and their mother has read this book, but if you’re one of the few who hasn’t, consider jumping aboard!
LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng
First Read: January 2018
Similarly to NORMAL PEOPLE, Celeste Ng’s sophomore novel, LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE, was a disappointment the first time around, but with a second reading I grew much more fond of it! Again, I was inspired to pick this one up because of its recently-released Hulu adaptation, starring none other than Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.
What I love most about Ng’s novels is the way she so expertly captures family dynamics. In my pleasure-reading I tend to lean toward family sagas and books that explore one story from multiple perspectives, and LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE is certainly one of those novels; it follows the adoption story of a Chinese-American baby from the points-of-view of a cast of characters. I still consider Ng’s first novel, EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, to be a significantly more impactful read, but LITTLE FIRES definitely packs a punch, albeit a more domestic one. By the end of the novel, I felt sympathetic toward each individual character regardless of race or economic status, and I was able to relate to almost everyone–particularly Izzy!– on a personal level. LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE is an impressive achievement, and one I’m grateful I made the time to re-read.