By Chris Cleave
Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Goodreads Rating: 3.69
Genre: Adult Fiction w/ Refugee Theme
Publication Date: February 16th 2010
Format Read: Audiobook via Library Overdrive
Challenges met: Read Harder Challenge
Goodreads Summary: British couple Andrew and Sarah O’Rourke, vacationing on a Nigerian beach in a last-ditch effort to save their faltering marriage, come across Little Bee and her sister, Nigerian refugees fleeing from machete-wielding soldiers intent on clearing the beach. The horrific confrontation that follows changes the lives of everyone involved in unimaginable ways. Two years later, Little Bee appears in London on the day of Andrew’s funeral and reconnects with Sarah. Sarah is struggling to come to terms with her husband’s recent suicide and the stubborn behavior of her four-year-old son, who is convinced that he really is Batman. The tenuous friendship between Sarah and Little Bee that grows, is challenged, and ultimately endures is the heart of this emotional, tense, and often hilarious novel. Considered by some to be the next Kite Runner, Little Bee is an achingly human story set against the inhuman realities of war-torn Africa. Wrenching tests of friendship and terrible moral dilemmas fuel this irresistible novel.
That’s a bad summary, but to be honest I can’t really write you a better one without spoilers, so we’re going to go with that. One thing I will say though is that there’s something on the back cover that mentions this book being “hilarious” and I can tell you that it is not that. This is a semi-depressing statement on the refugee crisis told through the lense of a refugee girl and a young London mother. It made me think so much, and now I want to take in all of the refugees and save them all. After finishing, I just kind of sat there blankly forever because I couldn’t physically think of anything else. It overwhelmed my emotions so much so that I’m slightly shaking writing this and I can’t actually make my thoughts work well enough to write a good review. It’s going to take me awhile to get this one out of my head.
Cleave did an excellent job of telling one story in way which encompasses all stories, and it was definitely focused to raise awareness on a larger issue. I know some people in other reviews I read had a problem with this. However, I don’t think it took away from the “people part” of the story at all, and in fact I think it was the power of those people and their emotions that made the story so beautiful.
The main character, Little Bee, lends a remarkable voice to the novel. There are alternating narrators, and in Bee’s parts, she speaks as though she is talking directly to you. Because of this, I think it was the perfect book to start my audiobook experience, and the woman who read it actually had what I assume to be Nigerian accent. TALK ABOUT TOTALLY IMMERSING YOURSELF IN THAT WORLD! Bee was somewhat humorous at times, with her commentary on what she would have to explain to the “girls back home”, and yet she was breathtakingly honest, raw, and real. She felt like your little sister and your best friend all at the same time, and that made me feel for her. Bee was about my age, and I felt a deep attachment to her, perhaps because of this.
The other POV character, Sarah, is equally as complex and well developed. There are some complaints that Cleave, being a man, couldn’t accurately portray her, but screw that. I think he did a fantastic job, and she seemed honest and genuine and her reactions seemed real. I don’t think most people could say how a 30 something year old suicide-induced widow with a 4 year old son should react when a refugee girl shows up at her door. Therefore, you can’t judge. I loved the way she acted. Loved it.
Like I said earlier, there’s dual alternating POV, which really helped the storyline because you had a good feel for two character’s emotions, but in different parts, so there was also a bit of a mysterious element. The story moved forward at a pretty good rate, and it never felt dull, but I will say that it was lacking in traditional “action” scenes. If that’s the type of book you’re looking for, then this is not for you. It emphasized emotions, struggles, and was more of a coming of age commentary than a book about a girl fleeing from a war zone.
WTF I’m So Mad I Must Rant…
Why tf does this book only have 3.69 stars on Goodreads, you ask? Well, the answer is that a whole bunch of insensitive people who should not have been reading that genre of book judged it for what they wanted it to be, not what it actually was. It’s making me so mad because this book honestly deserves to be in the upper 4’s range, and the reason it’s not isn’t because people have real issues with the book.
Some people are marking it down because it focused too much on “issues” and not on the actual characters. First off, let me tell you that that’s bullshit. The whole story focused on emotions of just two people, and yeah, that led to the larger issue problem. The point of the book was partially to raise awareness for the refugee crisis around the world, and the book did such an amazing job of raising awareness for that while still telling a story. Second, WE NEED TO HAVE AWARENESS ON THIS ISSUE SO IF YOU DON’T LIKE THAT THAN MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T READ A BOOK ABOUT A FUCKING REFUGEE!!!!!!!!! This book made me think so much, and completely changed my refugee/immigration stance, and so I think it did a damn good job achieving what it set out to achieve. You can’t give a book a bad rating because you don’t like it’s message, that’s not the point. That’s just you not being open minded.
Other people marked it down because it said “hilarious” in the synopsis and they thought it was dark, not funny. Let me enlighten you. IT’S DARK HUMOR. IT’S FUNNY BUT NOT IN AN LOL WAY. There’s different types of humor, and some people aren’t able to understand that. They went into a book ABOUT A REFUGEE GIRL expecting it to be a lighthearted tale. They are the wrong audience for this book.
Another review excerpt: “I would have ranked this higher, were it not for the ridiculous hype on the jacket”. Well damn it then rate it higher. I’m so mad and I’m very sorry for ranting, it’s just that this book deserves so much better. You need to be willing to hear about issues to read it, and some people were not, which is why it got bad reviews. Don’t get me wrong: prior to reading this book I was anti-immigration for muslim refugees, just because I was selfish. You can enjoy this book with differing viewpoints, but know what it’s about before going into it.
I’m sorry for ranting in a review like this, but I needed to say it. There was no other way that I would feel okay with myself.
Diversity and Triggers…
The main character was Nigerian, but pretty much everyone else was white, hetero, and from London. Diversity was not a goal, but Cleave did portray Little Bee (Nigerian) authentically (IMO, but I’m not own voice so I can’t tell).
The following trigger warnings contain spoilers: there is a scene in Nigeria where cannibalistic savages come and rape/torture/kill a young girl. There is no graphic imagery, and I believe that it is historically (or not so historically, this is happening now) accurate. In addition, suicide is described fairly graphically at one point, and there is an extramarital affair with the wife of the suicide victim.
Read this book please gods read it. I adored it, and I know that it’s going to stay in my head for a long time, it’s not one of those books that disappears from mind quickly. After this, I tried to go straight to listening to Nightingale, since I got it from the library, but I couldn’t because my mind kept going back to Little Bee. It is so, so powerful, the characters are so authentic and raw, and it will keep you hooked the entire time. I can say right now that this would be #1 on my 2016 list, and I expect it to be near the top of this year too. As my first audiobook experience, I could not be more pleased. If you read one serious book this year, it has to be this one.
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