Sometimes books come into our lives that shake us to our core, that leave us standing on a bus full of people with our mouth hanging wide open – that’s exactly what happened to me while reading Chris Cleave’s “Little Bee“.
This is a fictional story about two women who experience a brutal act of violence together on a Nigerian beach. Sarah and her husband Andrew go on a “vacation” from their home in England and want to experience the lovely world of Nigeria, Africa when they come across two little girls, Little Bee and Nkiruka. What the four of them experience that afternoon will be an experience that each of them will try to forget but is almost impossible to do.
Little Bee finds Andrew’s wallet in the sand after the horrific events that takes place and it is there she decides that she will go find them to return his wallet and escape her “fate” in Nigeria. Her narritive voice starts in a detention camp on route to Sarah and Andrew’s house. Her main purpose of fleeing Nigeria is for safety reasons, to escape the men that have taken her parents lives as well as many of her friends. It is there where Little Bee learns english to be able to converse successfully with Sarah and Andrew. She states,
Learning the Queen’s English is like scrubbing off the bright red varnish from your toenails, the morning after a dance. It takes a long time and there is always a little bit left at the end, a stain of red along the growing edges to remind you of the good time you had.
Miracously, she shows up on Sarah and Andrew’s doorstep to discuss the afternoon that they all have spent years trying to erase from their minds. The narritive switches back and forth between Sarah and Little Bee who are both quite different from one another, but similar in many ways. Both are searching to discover who they are and have been running away from their realities for quite some time.
I don’t want to reveal too much on this story because it’s an uplifting and at the same time, tragic story of refuge policy, rights and the realities about some of the events that happen in third world countries. Chris Cleave has done a brilliant job at writing a novel that will make you think and more importantly make you apprieciate the life you live everyday.