When adapting a book for television or film, it's normal to make a few changes in order for the story to better fit the new medium. That's why anyone who read Celeste Ng's 2017 novel Little Fires Everywhere was met with quite a few surprises when they tuned into the recent Hulu miniseries. While most of the story in the show is the same as it was in the book, there are some very important details that were added to further flesh out all the characters' relationships. By the end of the series, it was clear the Little Fires Everywhere differences between the book and show actually included some pretty major changes.
Just like the Hulu series, the Little Fires Everywhere novel is a story about the complex intersection of class, and motherhood, revolving around the upper-class Elena Richardson and the nomadic Mia Warren. The main points of the story remain the same in both the book and the show, but the latter does add several elements to certain characters that were not part of the novel. Much of these changes have to do with the character of Mia, but there is also a pretty big addition to Elena's story, a new element to Izzy's life, and a massive change to the finale's ending. Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers from the Little Fires Everywhere season finale.
1. Mia & Pearl's Race
The most immediately evident change the Hulu series makes from the original story is Mia and Pearl's race. The book actually never mentioned the races of Mia or her daughter Pearl, leaving them ambiguous, but the series presented the mother and daughter as black women. The change adds a new layer of racial tension to the already fraught relationship between Mia and Elena, who is white.
Author Celeste Ng told The Atlantic she initially wanted to write Mia and Pearl as people of color, but ultimately decided it wasn't her place to do so. "I thought of them as people of color, because I knew I wanted to talk about race and class, and those things are so intertwined in our country and in our culture," she said. "But I didn’t feel like I was the right person to try to bring a black woman’s experience to the page."
2. Izzy's Sexuality
As with Mia and Pearl's race, Izzy's sexuality is never actually mentioned at all in the book. However, it plays a pretty big part in the Hulu series. In the show, Izzy's attraction to girls underscored her feelings of ostracism and rebellion. It also became another way for Izzy to bond with Mia.
3. Mia's Sexuality
Mia's race wasn't the only thing the series changed — the show also changed her sexuality from the book. The novel's version of Mia was implied to be asexual, with a passage revealing she had never felt romantic love for anyone and had never seen a grown man naked. However, the Mia of the Hulu series has a devil-may-care attitude towards sex, sleeping with various men as she feels like it. She also had a great love with a woman.
4. Mia's Relationship With Pauline
Pauline Hawkins is presented as Mia's first and only real romantic love in the Hulu show, which is a major change from the book. Mia's photography professor is actually married to a woman named Mal in the novel, and Pauline is strictly a mentor and mother figure to Mia during her time in New York. However, the show took their relationship to a deeper level, as Pauline's mentorship eventually turned into a romance between Mia and herself.
5. Elena's Relationship With Jamie
In the novel, Elena briefly reminisces about her adventurous college boyfriend who asked her to run away with him rather than settle down in Shaker Heights, but the TV show turns that short passage into a fully fleshed-out storyline. Jamie never actually appears in the book, but Elena seeks his help to uncover Mia's history in the series, and then the two go out to dinner together. He's also a big part of the flashback episode, as it's revealed a stressed-out and remorseful Elena nearly hooked up with him shortly after Izzy was born.
6. Mia's Pregnancy Photo
The mystery of Mia's past is first introduced in the book when Moody and Pearl stumble on a portrait of Mia pregnant at an art museum while on a field trip. In the show, however, Mia has Pauline's portrait of her tucked away for a rainy day, and it only surfaces after she sells it in order to get money for Bebe Chow's legal fees.
7. Pearl & Mia's Reaction To Lexie
Pearl and Lexie have a much more fraught relationship in the show than in the book. The novel's version of Pearl was so dazzled by Lexie that she didn't think twice about writing her college admissions essay for her, and she even offered to let Lexie use her name as a pseudonym when signing in for her abortion. But for Hulu's adaptation, Pearl is more perceptive of the ways Lexie has been using her. Similarly, Mia lays into Lexie for using Pearl on the show, whereas the book version of Mia was nothing but warm and nurturing to Lexie after her abortion.
8. Who Set The Fires
The biggest change of all is the final one. Both the book and the show end with the revelation of who set the fires at the Richardson house, but the respective answers to that question are very different. Enraged at everyone in her family, Izzy set the fires and ran off at the end of the novel, but the Hulu series altered the scene to have Lexie, Trip, and Moody catch their sister before she set the fires. Then came a huge face-off with Elena, who told Izzy she never wanted her in the first place. As Izzy ran off, her siblings, pissed at Elena, finished the deed for her, then immediately alerted their mother to evacuate the house. Elena then confessed to setting the fires herself in the end, which was also not part of the book.
Whether you prefer the more subtle nature of the Little Fires Everywhere novel or found yourself enjoying the dramatic reveals of the Hulu series more, the changes certainly added a ton of new layers to the already complex stories of Mia, Elena, Pearl, Izzy, and the rest of the characters.