A 16 year old Nigerian girl, a 4 year old who thinks he’s Batman, Sarah, a woman with only 9 fingers, and her husband Andrew are all forced together in this story about survival. Little Bee grew up in the third world country where she changes her name to Little Bee to protect herself. After an encounter on the beach one day with the English couple, Sarah and Andrew, Little Bee stows away on a ship to seek refuge in England. Once there, she is immediately sent to a detention center where she spends over a year in harsh conditions because she has no papers. Once released, she goes to find Sarah and Andrew only to find that their worlds do not go together so well.
If you are looking for a “feel good” book then this is not the book to read. This is a very sad book, but I think that Chris Cleave does a great job of showing the difficulties of life in a third world country, in detention centers, and even in middle to upper class society. Sarah and Little Bee are practically forced together because of circumstances and it is great that Chris Cleave allows the reader to hear both of their points of view by switching from one character’s voice to another. Listening to Little Bee you will find a young girl who is constantly afraid that men from Africa will come to find her. Sarah’s perspective is even more complex as she cheats on her husband, works a full time job, tries to raise her son, and doesn’t know how to manage it all.
While this is an extremely sad book, Little Bee’s thought processes at times are very witty and sometimes make you laugh. Not to mention the fact that Sarah’s 4 year old believes that he is Batman and can not be convinced otherwise. While I do recommend this book, I have to warn that the ending is somewhat frustrating and left me hanging. Even so, this is a wonderfully written book and well worth reading.