Little Bee

Little Bee

Paperback - 2009
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Sarah Summers is enjoying a holiday on a Nigerian beach when a young girl named Little Bee crashes irrevocably into her life. All it takes is a brief and horrifying moment of crisis -- a terrifying scene that no reader will forget. Afterwards, Sarah and Little Bee might expect never to see each other again. But Little Bee finds Sarah's husband's wallet in the sand, and smuggles herself on board a cargo vessel with his address in mind. She spends two years in detention in England before making her way to Sarah's house, with what will prove to be devastating timing.

Chapter by chapter, alternating between Little Bee's voice and Sarah's, Chris Cleave wholly and caringly portrays two very different women trying to cope with events they'd never imagined. Little Bee is experiencing all the fullness and emptiness of the rich world for the first time, and her observations are hopeful, charming and piercing: "Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl," she says: "Everyone would be pleased to see me coming."

Sarah is more cynical and disheartened, a successful magazine editor trying to find meaning in the face of turmoil at home and work. As the story develops, however, we learn about what matters most to her, including her fierce, protective love for her funny little son ("From the Spring of 2007 until the end of that long summer when Little Bee came to live with us," Sarah says, "my son removed his Batman costume only at bathtimes."). Sarah is trying to find herself as much as Little Bee is -- and, unexpectedly, each character discovers a ray of hope in the other.

What follows when Little Bee comes back into Sarah's life is a powerful story of reconciliation and healing, but it is mixed in with a generous helping of satire about the daily difficulties of modern life. This is a novel about important issues, from refugee policy to the devastating effects of violence, but more than that, it does something only great fiction can: Little Bee teaches us what it is like to live through experiences most of us think of only as far off disasters in the news.

As ever, the author says it best: "It's an uplifting, thrilling, universal human story, and I just worked to keep it simple. One brave African girl; one brave Western woman. What if one just turned up on the other's doorstep one misty morning and asked, Can you help? And what if that help wasn't just a one-way street?"
Publisher: [Toronto] : Anchor Canada, 2009.
Edition: Anchor Canada edition
ISBN: 9780385665315
Characteristics: 271 pages ;,21 cm.
Alternative Title: Other hand


From the critics

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Nov 10, 2017

Looking forward to discussing this on Monday, December 4th, 2017. Come and join the discussion!

Aug 17, 2017

Little Bee, for me, was a great little novel, spoiled by the ending. The twists and turns that the author uses throughout the book make complete sense and keep the plot interesting but the main character adopts a completely unbelievable attitude at the end.

Aug 14, 2017

Little Bee (Udo) carries this book. After the first few switches between her and Sarah, I only skimmed the chapters narrated by Sarah. Little Bee is very clever and has a great sense of humor. I don't agree with those who feel this book tries to mirror The Kite Runner.

I strongly recommend this book be read simply to widen your ability to empathize with others. Little Bee provides a very intelligent and thought-provoking character experiencing something many of could not even dream (or nightmare) of.

Feb 27, 2017

This book tries to pack the emotional punch of Kite Runner and it is obvious. The horrific rape scene is way more graphic than it needed to be, contrived. Ruined the book for me.

LoganLib_Adults Aug 30, 2016

Come and see Chris during the Brisbane Writer's Festival;

JCLLeslieN Feb 10, 2015

This book wants to be Kite Runner, but this one's violent scene is unnecessarily evil and detracts from the rest of the book. You have to know how much is enough to get your point across.

Jan 12, 2015

Ohhhh ... what a sad little story. Enjoyable, nonetheless, and yes, I would recommend it.

Jan 12, 2015

I don't throw out five stars easily, but this is one powerful book. Every sentence is beautiful, and the storyline is so compelling. Best book I've read in a long time.

Jul 07, 2014

Some of the descriptive writing was too graphic. The book never said how she was picked up and placed in the detention center.

Jun 11, 2014

Found that the book started out very strongly with many interesting characters but the last part fizzled out with an unsatisfying ending.
I would still recommend reading due to the educational aspects of the story and the wonderfully developed title character.

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EricaReynoldsNYC May 06, 2014

MOST DAYS I WISH I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming. Maybe I would visit with you for the weekend and then suddenly, because I am fickle like that, I would visit with the man from the corner shop instead—but you would not be sad because you would be eating a cinnamon bun, or drinking a cold Coca-Cola from the can, and you would never think of me again. We would be happy, like lovers who met on holiday and forgot each other’s names.

Apr 16, 2011

If the men come suddenly, I will be ready to kill myself. Do you feel sorry for me, for thinking always in this way? If the men come and they find you not ready, then it will be me who is feeling sorry for you.

Apr 16, 2011

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 survived.

Apr 16, 2011

How I would love to be a British pound. A pound is free to travel to safety, and we are free to watch it go. This is the human triumph. This is called, globalization. A girl like me gets stopped at immigration, but a pound can leap the turnstiles, and dodge the tackles of those big men with their uniform caps, and jump straight into a waiting airport taxi. Where to, sir? Western Civilization, my good man, and make it snappy.


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Sep 06, 2017

A tenuous friendship blooms between two disparate strangers--one an illegal Nigerian refugee, the other a recent widow from suburban London.

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