Little Bee By Chris Cleave

“Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds.” Chris Cleave

So starts the back cover blurb of the novel, Little Bee by Chris Cleave, a columnist with The Guardian. In the UK, the book was published as The Other Hand.

And since I’ve been told not to tell you too much about the story, I won’t. I’ll just say that the book has two protagonists. Their lives intersect on a deserted beach in Nigeria and again in the London suburb of Kingston-on-Thames.

But, I will tell you how I felt about Little Bee.

I loved it. I loved the two voices (individual, misguided, human and real). What has brought these characters together is revealed slowly through their different perspectives. One character, Little Bee represents the plight of refugees, each of those who flee conflict or persecution for the promise of a better life. The other voice is Sarah’s, a white middle class magazine editor who lives in the suburbs. She embodies all of us who are born and/or raised in protected western cultures.

The novel gave me a glimpse into why people bolt from their countries. It reconfirmed my belief that opportunities abound for those who already have everything. Contrastingly, there is so very little for those considered the have not’s in our society. It’s not fair. It just is. And to think otherwise, which I like to most of the time, in my hopeful naiveté, only makes the problem worse.

A friend of mine recommended the book to me because I’m interested in refugees: where they come from, why they migrate and what happens to them after they leave their homes. These matters are at the heart of the novel I’m currently working on so I’m always looking for material that will challenge what I write and what I believe.

Reading Little Bee confirmed my premise that freedom, if attained, comes with lots of entanglements and dangers. In addition, whether it’s the UK, the US, Germany, Canada or Greece, no country has mastered how to handle the mass influx of desperate people we have seen in the last several years. We all need to do better.

I loved this book because the story that unfolds is both horrifying and beautiful. It will stay with me like all exceptional stories must.

This book isn’t a fairy tale. Little Bee is about reality. A reality none of us can afford to ignore. I would recommend this book without the slightest hesitation and, then, I’d love to discuss it with you.

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