Saturday, September 4, 2010

Little Bee

Always the last one on the bandwagon, I finally got around to reading Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I read it in one day. I could not put it down. And that rarely happens.

The story of Little Bee is told through the voices of Little Bee, a teen-aged illegal refugee from Nigeria and Sarah, an upper middle class white British woman. Alternating through Little Bee's past and the present the story unfolds in a manner sure to keep you reading. Starting off with Little Bee's release from a British detention facility we are introduced to a variety of characters and their back stories. Sarah and Andrew and their son Charlie, Sarah's lover Lawrence all make an appearance and add layers to the story.

Little Bee has arrived in England aboard a tea cargo ship. She is promptly sent to a detention facility. She has Andrew's driver's license which she retrieved from the Nigerian beach where she first met Sarah and Andrew. After her release, she walks miles to their house and arrives on the day of Andrew's funeral. Sarah takes her in and the story really starts. Sarah has turned her life upside down with an affair. Her husband Andrew has committed suicide for reasons she can't fathom until the end of the book. Her son Charlie believes he will be ok as long as his alter ego, Batman, keeps the baddies away. As Sarah and Little Bee come to terms with what happened on the beach in Nigeria, Andrew's suicide and the effects of these events on Charlie, the two women come to an understanding.

Little Bee's story is one of unimaginable heartbreak and the willingness of the human spirit to believe in good. She survives through sheer belief that she can. She touches Sarah and Charlie in ways that will forever effect their lives. This is not a relentlessly cheery book. Cleave gives details about the oil companies in Nigeria, the Nigerian civil war and all the attendant horrors. And there is a horrific rape scene. The book is well written, however. Both readable and a moving story, I highly recommend this book.

Little Bee
Cleave, Chris.

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