Title: Little Bee
Author: Chris Cleave
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, February 2009
Summary: Chris Cleave’s second novel is quite an accomplishment. There are some beautiful moments, and some horrific moments throughout this complex story, told to us by two very different women who have been bound together by a violent event. The publishers of Little Bee are asking readers not to “spoil” the story by revealing too much of the plot. While I don’t agree that this is altogether necessary (there’s no big secret revelation, really, a la The Double Bindby Chris Bohjalian), I’ll honor their wishes.
What I can tell you is that I found the voice of Little Bee and her story to be excellently portrayed and very moving. When we first meet her she’s being released from a British immigration detention center after two years. We learn that she’s originally from a war-torn village in Africa, and has escaped almost certain death by stowing away on a ship to England. She reaches out to Sarah and Andrew O’Rourke, a couple from London that Little Bee and her sister met one fateful day on a beach in Nigeria. Sarah, our other narrator, takes Little Bee in even though her own life is in pieces after the suicide of her husband. As the two women together try to imagine how they can possibly create new lives for themselves, we learn more about the awful truth that connects them and brings the story to its inevitable, heart-wrenching conclusion.
Recommended by: Mary, Branch Reference