All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

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Happy reading!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, is the fictional story of sixteen-year-old Little Bee, a Nigerian girl whose life becomes irrevocably entwined with an English couple whom she encounters on a beach there. The book is narrated from Little Bee’s perspective and that of Sarah, an British magazine editor, who is the wife of Andrew and mother of Charlie.

Little Bee comes into Andrew and Sarah’s life during their ill-conceived outing off the protected grounds of their Nigerian beach resort. Little Bee and her sister were fleeing soldiers when they sought help from the English couple. In order to free one of the girls, Sarah agrees to amputate a finger, while her husband Andrew refuses. Little Bee’s life is spared, but her sister suffers a horrible death. Little Bee manages to smuggle herself aboard an ocean-going vessel, and arrives as a refugee in England.

What follows is Little Bee’s nearly two years of interment in an immigration detention center. During that time, she practiced speaking “the Queen’s English,” which she described as “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.” But her command of English made it easier for her to communicate after her “accidental” release, and was able to find Sarah and Andrew, only to have Andrew commit suicide shortly thereafter. Little Bee is surprisingly wise for her age, telling Sarah that, “You are making a mistake if you think it (her story) is unusual. I am telling you, trouble is like the ocean. It covers two-thirds of the world.” Little Bee strongly believed that suicide was preferable to the kind of brutal and torturous death her sister suffered. In order to feel safe, Little Bee spent inordinate amounts of time seeking tools of her own demise. How could she kill herself here, in this location, if “the men” should come? Knowing that Little Bee is not safe in England as an illegal immigrant, Sarah begins collecting stories similar Little Bee’s and which leads to their eventual return to that fateful Nigerian beach.

Little Bee is written to bring awareness about refugees, the conditions which made them flee, and the conditions they find themselves in once they are “free” of their homeland. It is not a happy story, but it is well-researched and credible. The book was published in 2008 by Simon and Schuster.

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