by Chris Cleave, (Simon & Schuster, paperback, February 2010)
Little Bee isn’t exactly my usual reading fare, but after all the hype, including the publisher sending us a SECOND copy with a big label marked “Staff Read”, and then when Tresa and I chose it as a book club selection, I finally picked it up.
Big mistake. I got no housework done for the next three days. Little Bee had me completely captivated from the first chapter right on through to the last. I will tell you, this book is not for the faint of heart, but I honestly think every adult in the relatively privileged western world should read it. Little Bee’s voice permeated my life for about a week, variations on her story inhabited my dreams and colored my perception during the days. I can honestly say that I am changed from having read it.
Little Bee works on two levels. First, the story itself: the alternating first person narratives of two women, one a teen-aged Nigerian refugee and the other a thirty-something English woman, tell a riveting story of loss and suffering. Second is the beautiful way in which the story unfolds. No, I’m not going to spill the beans on this one – you really must read it for yourself – but I will say that every time the characters are moving ahead in their lives, set upon a given trajectory toward what seems like an inevitable conclusion, Cleave gives us another strand of the tale, one that changes everything in one small sentence. Kind of like real life.
So, find this book, at the library, at a friend’s house, from your local independent bookstore (yes, a shameless plug), on your Kindle – wherever, and read it with an open heart, and let it begin to color your world too. Then, when you are finished, pass it on.
Reviewed by Annie Leonard
The Next Chapter, Knoxville, Iowa