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Little Bee by Chris Cleave………..

October 4, 2011

(There is always the chance that a any book discussion might reveal too much about an unread story. This is particularly true with Little Bee. The publishers of this book have decided not to put any kind of summary on the book’s jacket. So, if you haven’t read the book Little Bee and want to be surprised by even what it is about, you might want to wait to read what is written here until you are done.)

If you are a lover of words, this book is for you! Chris Cleave must use a magic wand as a pencil. Periods serve not just as a end to a sentence, but as a chance for the reader to stop, take a breath, and reread the words before it.

One of my favorites passages is when Little Bee says:

” On the girl’s brown legs there were many white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I have survived.”

This is so wonderful on many levels. First of all, nearly everyone in the book has a secret, a scar. And with this, Little Bee brings the reader into the secrecy as well. With this, we are a part of it. Come in, dear reader, let me whisper in your ear too. This paragraph also tells you, without question, that Little Bee is a survivor. “A scar does not form on the dying.” She is proud to have survived.

My other favorite aspect of Little Bee’s character is that she is forever trying to figure out how she would kill herself if the need arose. Often with humor, she will assess a situation and how best to get out of it. The themes in the book are heavy and the author did a wonderful job of letting us laugh a little in between the intensity.

Little Bee is a fabulous story about a young girl who ends up, through no fault of her own, in a detention center for illegal immigrants in England. She spends two years there and the story begins with her release, then returns to outline how/why she was sent there. It is a story about escaping only to be captured and about how being captured might not be the worst case scenario.

It is a story of secrets and about the decisions we make in the moment. And then how we must live with those decisions. It is a test of character that some fail, some pass, and some are just too practical to take.

The book starts off really strong and I could hardly put it down. The “why” of the story takes a while to unfold – almost a little too long. But the momentum carries you through and holds your attention. After you find out why, the story slows down. At first, I thought it lost some steam. But when I thought about it a little more, I realized that the story simple settled as the characters settled and the ending just faded into reality. The realization sinks in that the characters cannot control every twist in their lives, they must just live through them.

I highly recommend this book!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2011 1:33 pm

    I’ve been curious about Chris Cleave’s work for some time and your review has convinced me I simply MUST look him up.

    Thoughtful commentary; glad to see there are still smart, discerning readers out there. Sometimes when I wander through bookstores, taking in the braindead offerings, I have to wonder who’s buying books these days and have they ALL suffered catastrophic head injuries?

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