It's been a while since I've written about the books I've been reading. That's partially because I'm mid-rereading my favorite series, Outlander, gearing up for the TV show this summer (yes it is going to take many months to read through this series again and yes it is worth it). Don't worry, epic Outlander post forthcoming. Today is about a book that literally has been hanging out on my nightstand since we moved into this house. My mom recommended it to me and it was shoved aside many times in lieu of Kindle books and Outlander rereading. But for some reason I decided to pick it up a couple months ago.
Of course, I'm extremely glad I did. It was the kind of book you read really fast, wondering what will happen next. I finished it in just a few nights.
“I could not stop talking because now I had started my story, it wanted to be finished. We cannot choose where to start and stop. Our stories are the tellers of us. ” ― Chris Cleave, Little Bee
Ah, so beautiful. I love beautiful words. Little Bee is full of beautiful words.
The story shifts back and forth between two narrators, the two main characters. Little Bee is a young woman from a dangerous part of Nigeria (are there safe parts? I have no idea). The story starts with her being released from prison for trying to illegally enter England. It's obvious that terrible things have happened to her in the past, but she has spent her time in prison learning to speak extremely proper English. Her comrades tell her she sounds like the Queen of England she talks so proper. But she figures if she's ever going to escape Africa and live in England, her dream, she better learn to talk real good. She also names herself Little Bee. She seems very optimistic and hopeful for her future, yet everywhere she goes, she creates a plan for how to kill herself instantly in case the bad guys come to get her and take her back to Nigeria. So it's a weird, desperate kind of optimism.
“Wouldn't that be funny, if the oil rebels were playing U2 in their jungle camps, and the government soldiers were playing U2 in their trucks. I think everyone was killing everyone else and listening to the same music... That is a good trick about this world, Sarah. No one likes each other, but everyone likes U2.” ― Chris Cleave, Little Bee
The other main character is an English woman named Sarah. Sarah appears to be a typical working mom with a husband and a kid who goes by "Batman" throughout the whole story. She, too, alludes to something dark that occurred in her past, but it seems very distant to her. Maybe not so distant to her husband, who seems very depressed most of the time. Oh, and the other weird thing about Sarah? She's missing a finger.
The story is a little hard to tell because it's not told chronologically. Basically, Little Bee has just been released from prison and, for some reason, has Sarah's husband's wallet. She is using their address as her compass. She knows nobody else in England and calls to say she's coming. Sarah's husband answers and tells her to please not come, but what else is poor Little Bee going to do? And that's when you start to learn about their connection. It's a crazy connection.
And that's all I have to say about that... (name that movie reference)
Who Will Like This Book?
Well, it's an incredibly suspenseful story. You desperately want to know what happened throughout most of the book. And then when you do know, you want to see how these characters deal with each other and go about their lives. I mean, Little Bee, is an illegal Nigerian refugee in England. That would be a story in itself, but it's a lot more rich than that.
It's also just beautifully written. I know I already said that, but seriously, I love a novel that is written so sweetly with touches of humor and lots of truth. You can tell when an author values every word they write versus an author who simply tells the story.
“What is an adventure? That depends on where you are starting from. Little girls in your country, they hide in the gap between the washing machine and the refrigerator and they make believe they are in the jungle, with green snakes and monkeys all around them. Me and my sister, we used to hide in a gap in the jungle, with green snakes and monkeys all around us, and make believe that we had a washing machine and a refrigerator. You live in a world of machines and you dream off things with beating hearts. We dream of machines, because we see where beating hearts have left us.” ― Chris Cleave
As you can likely gather from this quote and from the book's set up with two very different narrators, this story has a lot to do with perspective. It asks big questions. It puts you in an impossible scenario and makes you wonder what you would do if it happened to you.
“A scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. A scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.” ― Chris Cleave, Little Bee
And resiliency. Little Bee is incredibly resilient, but so are Sarah and her husband.
It's a great story. And if you enjoy a plot twist you can't really see coming, then you'll definitely love it. It's not even a plot twist that once it happens you're like, oh okay then... and the story ends. You figure it out and then you think oh wow, NOW WHAT. It is not the ending. It's actually sort of a starting point and their coping and recovery is what is so interesting.
Also, it's a pretty short book. You can knock it out in a few nights. I'll be keeping this author in mind for future books. His style really appeals to me, and I've got to break up my Outlander reading with other things every now and then :)