Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Little Bee

by Chris Cleave

"Little Bee" is the name a young woman from Nigeria takes after she decides it is no longer safe to keep her own. When Chris Cleave's brief but powerful novel begins, Little Bee is being released from an Immigration Detention Center in Britain, where she's been held for two years learning the Queen's English and doing her best to keep herself alive and intact. Where she goes from here is uncertain, but she has a British man's driver's license and business card in her pocket. How she acquired these, and where they take her, I will leave for you to find out.

Sarah O’Rourke, the other narrator of the book, comes from a very different world. Sarah is an upper middle-class Brit working for a stylish magazine and raising her young son. Little Bee's appearance in her life is both a blessing and a curse, bringing up a terrible choice Sarah had once had to make, one she thought was buried in her past. I would love to say more, but one of the joys of this very human story is Cleave's perfect sense of timing in revealing the past and present to the reader. It's a story of the heroism possible in all of us, and of the way we choose to live on in the face of dark situations. Cleave's writing is beautiful and gentle, with a sense of humor that helps carry us through. I'll definitely be checking out his previous novel, Incendiary, and any of his future works.