Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Float Like a Butterfly

I would not have read Little Bee by Chris Cleave if my book group hadn't chosen it.  My friend, Kim, read it, and said that it was awful, and I usually agree with her.  This time, I'm glad I didn't listen. 

Little Bee is the story of a girl from Nigeria who meets a couple from England on the beach while they are visiting.  She later makes it to England, and tries to reunite with the couple.  The reader knows from the beginning that there was an incident on the beach that they all are unable to forget, but Cleave doles out the details slowly.

Like Achak Deng in What is the What by Dave Eggers, the main character, Little Bee, begins the story by saying that although her story is sad, it must be a story of survival, because she is here to tell it.  Unlike What is the What, Little Bee is pure fiction, but is based on the struggle of asylum seekers in the UK.  I would guess though that a reader of either book would like the other.

The characters in Little Bee are not all likable, and they are easy to judge.  But in some of their circumstances it is hard to propose a better solution than the flawed choices that the characters make.  The ending also leaves the reader with a lot to think and talk about, which makes this a great book for a book group.

As I was reading and liking the book, I asked Kim what she disliked about it.  It turns out that she hated the things that happened to the characters.  No reader could like what happens to the characters here, but the story of how one day on the beach sticks with each of them and changes their lives is worth reading. 

Next up:  Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Still listening to:  Swamplandia!  by Karen Russell

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