Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 266
Challenges:
Support Your Local Library Challenge #10

I’ve learned to pay close attention when my friend Eleanor gives a book 5 stars. We don’t always agree, but our reading tastes are very similar so when I saw her review of Little Bee, I went straight to the library website and got myself on the waiting list.

Wow – this book impressed me a lot. The writing is the kind where I could have easily marked a sentence or paragraph on nearly every page. I really think that at some point I want to go back and re-read this one slowly just to be able to appreciate the many gems.

I sat very still at the kitchen table. My mother and my sister had come back with us from the church and they orbited me in a blur of fussing and tidying, so that if a photograph had been taken of us all with a very long exposure it would have shown only me, in sharp focus, surrounded by a ghostly halo that took its azure color from my sister’s cardigan and it’s eccentricity from my mother’s tendency to close in on me at one end of her orbit, and ask if I was all right. I hardly heard her, I think. They carried on around me for an hour, respectful of my silence, washing the teacups without unnecessary clink, alphabetizing condolence cards whilst minimizing rustle, until I begged them, if they loved me, to go home.

It’s a story told in two voices, from two very different worlds. Little Bee is a 16 year old Nigerian refugee who has spent two years in an immigration detention center. Sarah is a London magazine editor with a 4 year old child who refuses to change out of his Batman costume or answer to any name other than Batman.

The book opens in the middle of the story in England and the reader learns through flashbacks that Little Bee and Sarah have a past history that began under horrifying circumstances in Little Bee’s home country of Nigeria. Cleave manages to tell a story that is at times horrifying, at times incredibly sad and at times hopeful and funny.

I expect that this book will get some mixed reviews and I think it would make a great book for a discussion group. There’s a lot to discuss about both the story and the writing style. Me? I thought it was excellent. It’s one of those books that’s gonna stick with me for a while so I think I need to read some fluff next that won’t interfere.