After Reese announced she was selecting Little Fires Everywhere for her book club, describing the page-turner as "powerful, intense, & moved me to tears," the Academy Award-winning actress decided to make the novel into a miniseries, set to premiere on Hulu.
Since—not to brag, or anything—we've read the book already, we're more than happy to spoil who burns down the house in Little Fires Everywhere for those among you who can't wait for Reese and Kerry Washington's drama to unfold. Keep reading, with caution!
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.
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.
To see how closely the series compares to the book, stream Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu.