Little Fires Everywhere

by

Celeste Ng

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Mia Warren Character Analysis

Mia Warren, inspired in part by The Scarlet Letter’s Hester Prynne, is a single mother and struggling artist who finds herself at the center of a strange and tight-knit community, the manicured and utopic Shaker Heights, Ohio. She then rapidly becomes entwined in several of the town’s interlocking scandals and snafus. Empathetic, intuitive, and secretive, Mia avoids her shadowed past by focusing intensely on her art—manually manipulated photographs and portraits—and dodging the questions about heritage asked of her by her daughter Pearl and her landlady and eventual employer, Mrs. Richardson. Mia’s sense of duty to others and desire to guide, soothe, and assist often gets her—or whoever she’s trying to help—into hot water. When Mia realizes that Bebe Chow, her coworker at a local Chinese restaurant, is the mother of a baby who’s about to be adopted by a prominent Shaker Heights family, the McCulloughs, Mia encourages Bebe to step up, leading to a long, difficult, and emotionally taxing legal battle. Mia takes Izzy Richardson under her wing as her photography assistant, and indirectly influences Izzy first to pull a large-scale school prank, and eventually to burn down her own family’s home. Mia embodies, at various turns, several of the novel’s themes: motherhood, disruption, identity, altruism and manipulation, and ostracism. Her painstakingly crafted photographs are symbolic of the valuable perspective of an outsider, and also of an outsider’s power to sow seeds of disruption—both positive and negative, helpful and destructive.

Mia Warren Quotes in Little Fires Everywhere

The Little Fires Everywhere quotes below are all either spoken by Mia Warren or refer to Mia Warren. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of Little Fires Everywhere published in 2017.
Chapter 4 Quotes

“Mom,” [Pearl] began, then found she could not repeat Lexie’s blunt words. Instead she asked the question that ran below all the other questions like a deep underground river. “Was I wanted?”
…Mia said nothing for such a long time that Pearl wasn’t sure if she’d heard. After a long pause, Mia turned around, and to Pearl’s amazement, her mother’s eyes were wet.
“Were you wanted?” Mia said. “Oh, yes. You were wanted. Very, very much.” She walked rapidly out of the room without looking at her daughter again.

Related Characters: Mia Warren (speaker), Pearl Warren (speaker)
Page Number: 44-45
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

“Listen to this dumbass question,” [Lexie] groaned, fishing the application from her bag. “Rewrite a famous story from a different perspective. For example, retell The Wizard of Oz from the point of view of the Wicked Witch.”
“How about a fairy tale,” Moody suggested. “‘Cinderella’ from the point of view of the stepsisters.”
“‘Little Red Riding Hood’ as told by the wolf,” Pearl suggested.
“Or ‘Rumplestiltskin,’” Lexie mused. “That miller’s daughter cheated him. He did all that spinning for her and she said she’d give him her baby and then she reneged. Maybe she’s the villain here. She shouldn’t have agreed to give up her baby in the first place, if she didn’t want to.”
“Well,” Mia put in suddenly. “Maybe she didn’t know what she was giving up. Maybe once she saw the baby she changed her mind. Don’t be too quick to judge.”

Related Characters: Mia Warren (speaker), Pearl Warren (speaker), Moody Richardson (speaker), Lexie Richardson (speaker), Bebe Chow, Linda and Mark McCullough
Page Number: 54-55
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

[Mrs. Richardson] turned her attention to the largest print, which had been stuck up alone over the mantelpiece. It was a photograph of a woman, back to the camera, in mid-dance. The film caught her in blurred motion—arms everywhere, stretched high, to her sides, curved to her waist—a tangle of limbs that, Mrs. Richardson realized with a shock, made her resemble an enormous spider, surrounded by a haze of web. It perturbed and perplexed her, but she could not turn away.

Related Characters: Mrs. Richardson / Elena (speaker), Mia Warren
Related Symbols: Mia’s Photographs
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

Mia could see there was no point in protesting, that protesting, in fact, would only make things worse and lead to ill will. She had learned that when people were bent on doing something they believed was a good deed, it was usually impossible to dissuade them. Then she imagined herself safely installed in the Richardsons’ kingdom, half obscured in the background, keeping watch over her daughter. Reasserting her presence in her daughter’s life.

Related Characters: Mia Warren (speaker), Pearl Warren, Mrs. Richardson / Elena
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

“Well?” said Mia. “What are you going to do about it?”
It was not a question Izzy had been asked before. Until now her life had been one of mute, futile fury. What was she going to do about it? The very idea that she could do something stunned her.

Related Characters: Mia Warren (speaker), Izzy Richardson (speaker), Mrs. Peters, Deja Johnson
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

Mia thought suddenly of those moments at the restaurant, after the dinner rush had ended and things were quiet, when Bebe sometimes rested her elbows on the counter and drifted away. Mia understood exactly where she drifted to. To a parent, your child wasn’t just a person: your child was a place, a kind of Narnia, a vast eternal place where the present you were living and the past you remembered and the future you longed for all existed at once. It was a place you could take refuge, if you knew how to get in. And each time you left it, each time your child passed out of your sight, you feared you might never be able to return to that place again.

Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

It was so easy, she thought with some disdain, to find out about people. It was all out there, everything about them. You just had to look. You could figure out anything about a person if you just tried hard enough.

Related Characters: Mrs. Richardson / Elena (speaker), Mia Warren
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

It had been a long time since her daughter had let her be so close. Parents, she thought, learned to survive touching their children less and less. It was like training yourself to live on the smell of an apple alone, when what you really wanted was to devour it, to sink your teeth into it and consume it, seeds, core, and all.

Related Characters: Mia Warren (speaker), Pearl Warren
Page Number: 248
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

“Is she going to be okay?”
“She’s going to survive, if that’s what you mean.” Mia stroked Izzy’s hair. It was like Pearl’s, like her own had been as a little girl: the more you tried to smooth it, the more she insisted on springing free. “She’s going to get through this because she has to.”
“But how?”
“I don’t know, honestly. But she will. Sometimes, just when you think everything’s gone, you find a way. Like after a prairie fire. I saw one, years ago. It seems like the end of the world. The earth is scorched and black and everything green is gone. But after the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too, you know. They start over. They find a way.”

Related Characters: Mia Warren (speaker), Izzy Richardson (speaker), Bebe Chow
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:
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Little Fires Everywhere PDF

Mia Warren Character Timeline in Little Fires Everywhere

The timeline below shows where the character Mia Warren appears in Little Fires Everywhere. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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...over the departure of the tenants at her rental house on Winslow Road. The tenants, Mia Warren and her teenaged daughter Pearl Warren, had left in the night, and Mrs. Richardson... (full context)
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...that’s why “she acts mental.” Meanwhile everyone has seemingly forgotten about the sudden departure of Mia and Pearl Warren. As Mr. Richardson approaches in his BMW, Trip predicts that their parents... (full context)
Chapter 2
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The narrative flashes back in time to the previous June. Mia Warren and her fifteen-year-old daughter Pearl have just moved into the Richardsons’ “little” rental property... (full context)
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...Heights is governed by many unspoken ways and rules, often both strict and obscure. As Mia and Pearl settle in, they begin to learn the rules. They must write the word... (full context)
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Along with the more stringent, off-putting rules, Mia and Pearl begin to learn the “more welcoming things” about their new neighborhood. They start... (full context)
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Moody Richardson overhears his parents discussing whether or not Mia will pay the rent on time with some concern — she is, they know, a... (full context)
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...vowed to be “more careful” in choosing a tenant this time around, and settled on Mia and Pearl in part because she wanted Pearl, a bright girl in all AP and... (full context)
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...mention of a young girl living in the rental house, and, a few days after Mia and Pearl move in, he rides his bike over to the property to introduce himself.... (full context)
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Moody helps Pearl bring the bed frame inside and watches as she assembles it. Mia brings them a set of tools, and Pearl knows exactly what to do with each... (full context)
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...all the places they’ve lived, Moody can’t “see all that she [is] remembering.” Pearl and Mia have lived in dilapidated apartments in Urbana, Middlebury, Ocala, and Muncie, and had subletted a... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...Pearl learns more about Moody and Shaker Heights, Moody also learns more about Pearl and Mia and their transient lifestyle, much of which has been spent in poverty. Though Moody has... (full context)
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In each place they live, Mia takes on a part-time job — or jobs — to make enough for her and... (full context)
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Mia occasionally is able to sell her work, which Moody himself describes as “startling,” with the... (full context)
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Pearl continues describing to Moody “what [her and Mia’s] life on the road is like.” Moody thinks that their existence is “a magic trick.”... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Mia notices her daughter’s burgeoning “infatuation” with the Richardson family. At first she is happy and... (full context)
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...questions are “nothing Pearl ha[sn’t] thought herself.” Pearl realizes that any time she has asked Mia about her identity, her mother has deflected and refused to answer, joking that she found... (full context)
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...night, back at home, Pearl asks her mother if she was wanted as a baby. Mia begins crying, which shocks Pearl, and tells her that she was wanted “very, very much”... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...to be accepting hand-me-downs but excited to have something of Lexie’s. Pearl is relieved when Mia launders Lexie’s old things along with the thrift store finds and doesn’t say anything about... (full context)
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...she agrees. Lexie drives Pearl and Moody to the house on Winslow. When they arrive Mia fights the urge to refuse them, but remembers that she wanted Pearl to make friends.... (full context)
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...him her baby and then reneged,” wondering if the miller’s daughter is actually the villain. Mia advises Lexie to relax her judgment and leaves the room. (full context)
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...what he perceives to be his sister taking advantage of Pearl. In the next room, Mia cleans her paint brushes in solitude. (full context)
Chapter 6
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Pearl completes Lexie’s essay within a week. Both Mia and Moody are “uneasy” that Lexie has wrangled this favor from Pearl. Pearl starts dressing... (full context)
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...little bit like smoke and alcohol, and offers her a mint. Pearl goes upstairs and Mia, upset, sends Pearl straight to bed. She tells herself that “this is what teens do,”... (full context)
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Conveniently, the following Tuesday, Mrs. Richardson arrives at the rental house to check up on Mia and assure that she’s “settled in” all right. She notes that the house is clean,... (full context)
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Mrs. Richardson asks whether Mia sells enough of her art to make a living, and Mia divulges that she has... (full context)
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Mrs. Richardson notes aloud that Mia keeps a very clean and tidy house, and then, struck with an idea, offers to... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Mia agrees to work as the Richardsons’ housekeeper three times a week, and to prepare their... (full context)
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Mia settles into her schedule: she works at the house from eight thirty in the morning... (full context)
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A week into working for the Richardsons, Mia finds herself alone in the kitchen with Izzy, who is suspended from school. Izzy introduces... (full context)
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...with having been suspended when she believes she was standing up for what was right. Mia asks her what she plans to “do” about her circumstances, and, Izzy, never having been... (full context)
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...suburban Midwest,” reveals her plan to toilet paper Mrs. Peters’s house. However, Moody, Pearl, and Mia advise against it. Mia recalls a student at her own high school having glued the... (full context)
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...Deja alone. The prank’s largest side effect, though, is Izzy’s respect for and adoration of Mia Warren, who has given her permission to “delight in mischief [and] in breaking the rules.”... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Izzy walks to the house on Winslow every day after school to work as Mia’s photography assistant. Meanwhile, Pearl does the “exact reverse,” accompanying Moody home to lounge in the... (full context)
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...exhibit called “Madonna and Child.” There they encounter a black-and-white photograph which seems to feature Mia holding a newborn baby. Pearl wonders if the infant in the photograph is her, but... (full context)
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Lexie drives Pearl and Moody back to the Richardson house, where Mia is preparing the Richardsons’ dinner while Izzy watches. At Lexie’s nudging, Pearl confronts Mia about... (full context)
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Izzy, hungry for answers that will help her understand Mia, researches Pauline Hawthorne but can’t find any connection between her and Mia despite learning that... (full context)
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...in New York responsible for the sale. Anita Rees who dodges her questions about both Mia and Pauline, stating that “the original owner of the photo wished to remain anonymous.” Mrs.... (full context)
Chapter 9
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On Monday, when Mia arrives to prepare dinner, Lexie continues to gush about May Ling. She tells Mia the... (full context)
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Mia knows that Bebe is now “desperate” to find her child, and Mia feels that Bebe... (full context)
Chapter 10
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On Tuesday evening, Pearl and Mia’s doorbell rings, and someone knocks frantically at the door. Bebe Chow has arrived, having been... (full context)
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Bebe stops at Mia’s house to tell her that the team who interviewed her believes her story is “a... (full context)
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...one of her coworkers at Lucky Palace—a coworker whom Mrs. Richardson suddenly realizes must be Mia. Mrs. Richardson thinks of Mia’s standoffishness and quietness about her past, even after the kindness... (full context)
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The following morning, Mia arrives for work at the Richardsons’ house. Mrs. Richardson, who believes that Mia is “dangerous”... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...of a teaching salary. When Mrs. Richardson contacts the school there is no record of Mia Warren, however there is a record of Mia Wright. Mrs. Richardson learns that Mia Wright... (full context)
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...desire to impress her to get Pearl to talk. Pearl tells her that she and Mia have lived all over, and reveals that she was born in San Francisco, but that... (full context)
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...certificate to arrive; when it does, the space for Pearl’s father’s name is blank, but Mia’s birthplace is listed on the certificate as Bethel Park, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Richardson believes there is... (full context)
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...with the McCulloughs, as does Mr. Richardson, while Moody and Izzy, inspired by Pearl and Mia, take Bebe’s side. Lexie and Brian also argue amongst themselves about May Ling—Brian’s father has... (full context)
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Mrs. Richardson’s anger at Mia over Mrs. McCullough’s pain continues to burn. She reflects upon her own family history, and... (full context)
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...like fire,” she thought then and thinks now, is “dangerous.” Her thoughts circle back to Mia, who lives a disorderly life, “dragging” Pearl from place to place, and “heedlessly throwing sparks”... (full context)
Chapter 12
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That night, Pearl is relieved to find that Mia doesn’t seem to notice anything is different, though Pearl spent all afternoon checking her reflection... (full context)
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...In the morning, Lexie picks Pearl up from the house on Winslow. Pearl has told Mia that Lexie is giving her a ride to school. Pearl asks Lexie if she is... (full context)
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...Mrs. Richardson, finding the Wrights to be easy interview subjects, quickly turns the conversation to Mia, asking the Wrights to provide her with Mia’s contact information—but the Wrights admit that they... (full context)
Chapter 13
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The narrative jumps backward in time to the fall of 1980. Mia, newly eighteen, has just left Bethel Park for New York City, where she will enroll... (full context)
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Mia had always believed in the power of transformation, and her brother, Warren, only a year... (full context)
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Throughout high school, Mia continued to experiment with doctoring photographs, though her parents never fully understood what it was... (full context)
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Mia takes a job at a diner in order to pay for her room and board,... (full context)
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In the esteemed photographer Pauline Hawthorne’s class, Mia finds herself enthralled with Pauline, and is surprised and delighted to discover that Pauline soon... (full context)
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One day, Mia notices a man staring at her on the subway. Put off by his look of... (full context)
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Mia meets the Ryans at the Four Seasons, not realizing that the evening will “change everything... (full context)
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Weeks later, Mia receives a letter saying that her scholarship will not be renewed for the coming school... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Looking back, Mia realizes that by not consulting her parents, her roommates, or Pauline and Mal, “she had... (full context)
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After a check-up at the obstetrician three weeks later, Mia is deemed healthy. She applies for a leave of absence from school. In the last... (full context)
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Slowly, the people in Mia’s life begin noticing what is going on. Her roommates tell her that she’s gotten a... (full context)
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...road, crashed, and overturned. Warren’s friend survived the incident, but Warren died in the crash. Mia immediately hops a flight home, taking the first plane trip of her life. At the... (full context)
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In the days leading up to the funeral, Mia’s parents refuse to speak to her. They make all of the arrangements without her, and... (full context)
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Once back in her studio, Mia takes a nap, packs her belongings, and writes a note to the Ryans. She lies... (full context)
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Once in San Francisco, Mia settles into an apartment and soon gives birth to Pearl. She names her daughter after... (full context)
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Pearl is only three weeks old when Mal calls Mia to tell her that Pauline has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, and that Mia... (full context)
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...a half later, Pauline dies. A few weeks after her death a package arrives for Mia— there are ten signed prints inside, all of Mia and Pearl, along with a note... (full context)
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Mia begins taking photographs again “with a fervor that felt like relief,” and slowly sends her... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Though the Wrights only know the basics of Mia’s story, they give Mrs. Richardson the business card of a lawyer working on behalf of... (full context)
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...help with some research. Within a week, he’s able to confirm that Joseph Ryan paid Mia’s hospital bills at St. Elizabeth’s in 1981 and 1982. Mrs. Richardson thinks about “what—if anything—[she... (full context)
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...condition” to face her home or family, offers to take Lexie back to her and Mia’s house. Pearl promises that Mia will be able to keep Lexie’s secret, and Lexie bursts... (full context)
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When Pearl arrives at the house on Winslow with a weakened Lexie in tow, Mia is shocked, but quickly intuits what is going on from Lexie’s disposition and the discharge... (full context)
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Lexie wakes up late in the afternoon—she is home alone with Mia, who feeds her chicken noodle soup. Lexie tells Mia that none of this was “supposed... (full context)
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Mia sends Lexie back to bed, though Lexie is worried about missing school. Mia tells her... (full context)
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The next morning, Lexie wakes up to find Mia gone, and Pearl home eating breakfast. Lexie is feeling better. She asks where Mia slept... (full context)
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Lexie sleeps some more after Pearl leaves for school. In the afternoon, Mia comes home to work on her photos. Lexie overhears her speaking to Bebe on the... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Lexie is due for a follow-up appointment at the clinic, and asks Mia to accompany her. Mia is surprised, but Pearl feels that there has been a reversal... (full context)
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...older brother’s “mystery girl” is. Moody returns home and finds Izzy there—she tells him that Mia is working at Lucky Palace, despite Pearl having told him that they were working together... (full context)
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...way.” Lexie, distraught and dazed, walks to the house on Winslow. She finds Izzy and Mia sitting at the kitchen table, and she sits with them and tells them that she... (full context)
Chapter 18
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A distraught Bebe seeks comfort at Mia’s house. Her visitation rights have been terminated and no further contact between Bebe and May... (full context)
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...Trip to find Bebe still at her kitchen table. Pearl retreats to her room, and Mia tells Bebe that May Ling will “always be [her] child.” Bebe leaves, saying nothing, and... (full context)
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...Pearl or Trip, she leaves work and drives to the house on Winslow to confront Mia instead. Mrs. Richardson “enter[s] without knocking; [it is] her house, after all.” Mia is surprised... (full context)
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Mia responds to Mrs. Richardson’s cruel tirade by accusing Mrs. Richardson of being not just “bother[ed]”... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...return to “normal.” Just then the classroom phone rings, and Pearl’s teacher tells her that Mia is in the office, having come to school to pick her up. Pearl and Moody,... (full context)
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When Pearl leaves the building, she sees her mother’s car parked outside—Mia is waiting for her. Mia asks her if she has anything important in her locker—she... (full context)
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...Shaker, the two of them have “acquired more things than ever before.” She furiously reminds Mia of her promise that they would stay put, throwing a book against the wall. Pearl... (full context)
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Mia finishes telling Pearl the “outline” of her past, knowing that the details will “trickle out”... (full context)
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There is a knock at the door—Mia answers it, and finds that it is Izzy. Izzy is confused because the door has... (full context)
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Mia and Pearl continue packing, the familiarity of leaving making the act almost automatic. While Pearl... (full context)
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...while Moody headed to a nearby lake. Izzy calls her mother to tell her that Mia has not shown up to prepare dinner, and Mrs. Richardson tells her that Mia can’t... (full context)
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...deserved it for “sneaking around with Trip.” Izzy tells Moody that Mrs. Richardson will blame Mia for everything. Moody says that Mia should have raised Pearl to be more “responsible.” Izzy... (full context)
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...something is wrong. She rings the doorbell and Mr. Yang answers. He tells her that Mia and Pearl left just a few minutes ago. Izzy returns home, retrieves the key to... (full context)
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...the empty can outside her parents’ bedroom, and retrieves a box of matches. She remembers Mia’s words about the prairie fire, and lights the match and drops it onto Lexie’s bed... (full context)
Chapter 20
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...leading up to the rental house, Mrs. Richardson is seized by the fear that perhaps Mia and Pearl haven’t left after all, or, worse, that Mia has desecrated the place in... (full context)
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...Izzy has already removed her print, which featured a black rose made from boot leather. Mia has left the negatives behind, as shorthand for the fact that she did not keep... (full context)
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...when Pearl drops the keys to the duplex into the Richardsons’ mailbox. She then rejoins Mia in the car and wonders aloud whether those are the pictures that were “going to... (full context)
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At the same time as Mia and Pearl cross into Iowa, and the Richardsons gather at the duck pond near their... (full context)
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...her heart “shatter[ing]“ as she thinks of Izzy alone in the world. She thinks of Mia’s portrait and wonders if she was the bird within it “trying to batter its way... (full context)