When Reese Witherspoon put Celeste Ng's bestselling novel Little Fires Everywhere on her Hello Sunshine book club list in September of 2017, she said that the page-turner was "powerful," "intense," and that it "moved me to tears." Plus, with the success of her prior novel adaptation Big Little Lies, it's no surprise then that the Academy Award-winning actress decided to make Little Fires Everywhere into a miniseries.
The Hulu miniseries debuted on March 17, with Kerry Washington, Reese Witherspoon, and Joshua Jackson in starring roles. New episodes were released weekly, and the dramatic finale dropped on April 22.
Though the show stayed fairly true to the book, there was one major difference in the last episode. Who burns down the house in Little Fires Everywhere? Read on to find out how the book ended, and what changed in the show adaptation.
Warning: Major spoilers ahead.
What is 'Little Fires Everywhere' about?
Little Fires Everywhere tells the story of two families in the Shaker Heights suburb of Cleveland: the Richardsons (Reese plays matriarch Elena Richardson, a mother of four teenagers) and the Warrens (Kerry plays Mia Warren, itinerant artist and single mom to 15-year-old Pearl).
At its core, Little Fires Everywhere is the story of how these two families come together and break apart. Set in the late '90s in an upper-middle class neighborhood of Ohio, the story begins with the Richardson house in flames. In typical Celeste Ng fashion, we start with at the very end and backtrack from there.
Let's rewind to Mia and Pearl's arrival to town the year prior. Mia, who's been moving around every couple of years, finally wants to settle down so that Pearl (Lexi Underwood) can take advantage of the top schools in the area and the two move into Shaker's most modest home, which is owned by Elena Richardson, a buttoned-up WASP who plays by the rules.
Almost as quickly as the new tenants arrive, the Richardson teens, especially Izzy (Megan Stott), are taken by Mia and Pearl, along with the mysterious past that they carry with them. But when Elena's friend, Linda McCullough (Rosemarie DeWitt), is looking to adopt a Chinese-American baby who was abandoned at a fire station, the custody battle divides Shaker Heights, with Elena and Mia at the center of the argument.
Who burns down the house in 'Little Fires Everywhere'?
When Mia isn't making art, she works at a Chinese restaurant to pay the bills. Her coworker there is none other than Bebe Chow (Lu Huang), who left her baby daughter at a fire station in the midst of a postpartum episode (in other words, the baby the McCullough's are looking to adopt is hers).
Mia advises her friend to get the local news involved in trying to get her daughter back, which she does successfully. But when Elena discovers that the baby is Mia's friend, Bebe's daughter, she feels completely betrayed by her tenant and desperate for her friend, which causes her to do a deep dive into Mia's life with the goal of figuring out what she's been hiding, as Elena puts it.
The McCulloughs and Bebe end up going to trial, and Bebe loses — but doesn't give up and winds up sneaking into the family's home and kidnaping her daughter anyway, fleeing with her to Canton. Meanwhile, Elena is trying to piece everything together and confronts Mia to tell her she's essentially evicted from her place. Mia picks Pearl up from school and leaves immediately.
In the book, the departure devastates Izzy, who's been shadowing Mia's art practice, and she comes to realize that while her mom mistreated Mia, her siblings also took advantage of Pearl (there's a convoluted abortion story here that we won't get into, but it informs what happens next). When Izzy thinks everyone's out of the house, she starts small fires on every family member's bed, and though her mother is still in the house, Elena manages to escape the fire unharmed.
Once the fire has devastated their house, the Richardsons head to their rental home, now vacated by Mia and Pearl, and finds that Mia left them photographs that carry personal significances for each of them. The McCulloughs are eventually approved to adopt a daughter from China, Mia and Pearl hit the road once again, and Izzy runs away from the Richardsons—leaving Elena vowing to spend the rest of her life in search of her daughter.
But, the miniseries finale, which dropped on April 22, showed a different ending. In "Find a Way," Izzy grabs a tank of gasoline to try to start the fires, but her siblings encourage her not to. When Elena sees what her youngest was planning on doing, she admits in a fit of rage that she never wanted to have a fourth child.
As Izzy storms off, Lexie admits her big secret to Elena, but she refuses to believe that her eldest is anything other than perfect.
With Izzy gone, the remaining three Richardson children — including Moody, Trip, and Lexie — decide to burn the house down. They start the fires that Izzy couldn't, and the house burns.
But, like the book, the show ends with Izzy running off after Mia. At this point, Mia has already left with Pearl as a result of Elena looking in to her past. In the book, it's unclear where Mia will go, while in the show, she seeks out her estranged parents.
While the book suggests that Izzy will never see her mother again, it's unclear what Izzy's fate is in the show.
To see how closely the series compares to the book, stream Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu.