Friday, November 16, 2012

Book Review: Little Bee

A few years back I ran into a mother of one of Bryce's classmates at the library.  She suggested that if I'm looking for a good read, I should try Little Bee, by Chris Cleave.  I've seen it raved about elsewhere as well.  I know it is an award winner and a New York Times bestseller.  I just didn't like it very much.  I'm not sure why. 

It is well-written.  The author does a superb job of shifting back and forth between two different narrators and weaving it all with expert timing.  The story is interesting and engaging.  The characters were bold and well-developed.  Somehow, none of that seemed to endear me to it as it should have.

Perhaps it is because it is such a sad tale.  Perhaps I wanted something with more sunlight, with more redemption at the end.  Perhaps I just didn't connect well enough with the story.  For whatever reason, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have continued reading if it hadn't been a book club selection.  And even then, I didn't make it to the book club this month because my husband needed me to stay home that evening with the little boys.  So, I don't know how others in my group responded (although all who wrote to say they couldn't make it said it made them profoundly sad).

I don't want to reveal the plot or spoil any surprises for those wanting to read this bestselling novel.  Instead, I will just say that it is a tale which intertwines the lives of two women, one a young Nigerian refugee and the other a British journalist.  The two meet on a horribly fateful day when one is asked to do something unthinkable in order to try to save the other.  They part ways, unsure how the future will pan out for each of them.  Then, two years later, they meet up again and once again attempt to remedy a desperate situation.

The only character I could fully relate to was the young son who refuses to take off his Batman costume and believes he is a superhero.  That fits with my realm of experience.  I couldn't relate to either narrator, even though I tried to really get behind the story.  I just found myself profoundly saddened and desperate for a better resolution than eventually came.  I know the goal was to move the reader.  And I can handle a book with a sad ending, but this just felt like nothing good ever came of the whole scenario.  I want redemption too badly.  I want there to be some value in the tale being told.  Are refugees being treated better because of the publication of this book?  I don't know.  I would hope so, but I'm not so sure.  If I run into a refugee will I be more likely to take notice of their story.  Perhaps.  But then, there are also refugees who are unwilling to go through the legal processes and just want to enter countries to absorb the benefits without following any legitimate steps.  I can't get behind that.

All that to say, go ahead and try the book if you like.  It didn't do much for me, but perhaps you will be enthralled and really moved by what "The New York Times" calls "an affecting story of human triumph."  Perhaps you will find yourself raving about it in a library to another patron.  Who knows.

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