by Chris Cleave
I loved this book! Cleave uses two narrators, one an English woman and the other a 16-year-old Nigerian girl, to tell the story. There are two events that propelled me forward through the story. The first was trying to figure out why one of the main characters, Sarah, was missing her middle finger. The second was trying to figure out what would cause her husband, Andrew, to commit suicide shortly after receiving a phone call from a Nigerian girl.
Cleave’s use of two narrators was quite effective. Most times when a story is being told by two point of views, you have huge overlaps in the story. Cleave uses minor overlaps, but you don’t lose any part of the story.
I was glad that Cleave does not portray Sarah, who performs the ultimate selfless act to help Little Bee, as a martyr devoid of any human imperfections. This does not make you totally love or hate her, she seems to be a flawed human who does some good deeds.
Little Bee of course is the character that steals my heart because of her plight. She is living in deplorable conditions in a detention center in England. She is a refugee being held there until they either send her back to Nigeria or give her documents to legally reside in England. She, along with the other girls in this detention center, must develop survival mechanisms. Two of which are performing sexual favors for the workers, and learning to speak proper Queen’s English. Little Bee chooses the later and completely loses her Nigerian accent.
Little Bee and Sarah’s lives collide in Africa where Sarah and her husband were vacationing. In a desperate act of humanity and selflessness, Sarah makes a decision that forever entwines her life with Little Bee. Andrew and Sarah go back to their lives in England forever bearing the scars of that fateful day at the beach in Africa. Their lives are forever changed.
Little Bee, Andrew, and Sarah’s lives collide again when Little Bee is released from the detention center. In this second, fateful encounter, Little Bee witnesses a horrific scene – one that had been in the making, all those many years ago on the African beach. Ultimately, Little Bee becomes a formidable part of the family and develops a special bond with Sarah’s son who is dealing with grief in an unusual way. Little Bee is definitely on my must read list!