I try not to judge a book by its cover, but the main reason I picked up this book was for its bright yellow sleeve with a silhouette of a young Nigerian woman entitled Little Bee. After reading the short summary on the inside cover I was immediately intrigued. As a huge fan of stories about people from different countries, I had become obsessed with learning about different cultures through fiction. It’s exciting to be transported into the minds of people who lived completely different lives than me. And let me tell you, this book did just that. By focusing on the relationship between a Nigerian refugee and a well-off English woman, this book portrays a macro issue on a micro scale.
Little Bee by Chris Cleave opens with the first narrator, Little Bee, in England’s refugee penitentiary. She is waiting to be released from her two-year stay in the institution. Little Bee tells the reader about how she wishes she could be a coin so she could go from country to country with ease, which would relieve her from living in a jail cell with fellow refugees. Not sure of where to go after her release, Little Bee takes a drivers’ license and business card she has kept for her entire journey. They belonged to Andrew O’Rourke, a man in London. She tells the reader that it is her only contact in the area, and her only hope. She calls the Andrew and asks for help and he responds bluntly, explaining that he cannot help her after she is released from the penitentiary.
The story then cuts to the second narrator, Sarah—a magazine editor in London, and the wife of Andrew O’Rourke. The story unfolds in a modular fashion as we learn how Little Bee and the O’Rourkes met, why Little Bee needs their help, and why Andrew is so troubled over her arrival in England.
I won’t tell you what happens next because doing so would give away the genius plot-line Cleave has crafted, and because the summary on the cover specifically told me not to. I will just say that you should not let the heavy narration at the beginning of the book sway you from turning the next page. It’s worth it.
Little Bee is about two people from two different places on the map uniting over a single, horrifying, and eye-opening event. Chris Cleave writes about the oil industry and political dissension in Nigeria in such a way that made me stop and think about how interrelated our international economy really makes us. He does not claim to understand the entire population of Nigeria, but uses one character from Nigeria to show the world how the oil industry has affected her.
Ivy is a Global Studies and English Writing double major (class of 2015) from Saint Peter, MN, who loves reading, coffee, travel, and dogs. Combine any two of those and she’s in her happy place. Prior to writing for the reviews blog, Ivy has enjoyed volunteering for Campus Service Commission and serving as the Secretary/Treasurer for Fjelstad Hall Council.