Review | Little Bee by Chris Cleave

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Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Originally Published as: The Other Hand
Genre: Literary fiction
Also by this author: Incendiary; Gold; Everyone Brave is Forgiven
Summary: Little Bee is a Nigerian refugee, fresh out of an immigration detention center in a new country where her only ties reside in an old driver’s license and a business card. Sarah O’Rourke née Summers is a freshly widowed mother  who once took a mistaken holiday to Nigeria in an attempt to save her marriage. When they reunite, both are trying to apologize for the wrongs they’ve done unto the other, and both are trying to pick up the little pieces of their shattered lives. Together, they build a little family in Kingston-upon-Thames, glued together with a four-year-old Batman whose only goal is to defeat the baddies.
Favorite Quote:  “Life is extremely short and you cannot dance to current affairs” (133).

 

 

Review: I need to stop reading books with bees in the title. They end in nothing but love and heartbreak for me. But then, it’s better to have loved and lost, is it not? I don’t know. Anyways, this book was also incredible. I tend to be uneasy when reading books from two separate perspectives because they tend to overlap and thus go rather slowly, but for the most part, this book was an exception to that trend. My one complaint is that, in places, the narrative got repetitive and thus I wasn’t consistently hooked. There were places where I thought “This would be a good time to go to bed” and I feel as though books should avoid doing that as often as possible. Regardless, I can see where the overlap in plot was necessary. The story itself is told by a series of overlapping stories which reflect upon the lives Little Bee and Sarah had before and after their meeting in Nigeria. Every chapter adds a tad more depth to their story, which simultaneously reflects their growing relationship and trust in one another. Readers are led to discover more about certain events, such as how Little Bee got to England, as the truth is opened up for both narrators. There are even instances where chapters (and thus the point of view) switch mid-story, so that readers are given both perspectives to the same event. This form of nonlinear plot development has a more messy, chaotic factor that is tricky to write at all, and Chris Cleave does so rather well.

The characterization of Sarah, Little Bee, and the people in their respective lives is also done beautifully. Both women are headstrong, caring, independent, and viciously grounded in principle. They both take what they value and run with it, taking the world onto their shoulders in the process. And both, although from completely different worlds, have their share of haunting burdens to bear. Little Bee and Sarah show that you can be strong while also being a sobbing wreck, you can be different and yet completely the same, that it’s okay to feel pain even if one person’s pain is seemingly worse, because we’ve all been raised into different worlds and the grass is always greener on the other side.

Little Bee is one of those books that makes you look at what you’re doing and say “is it enough?” and “could I do more?” It makes you ask if you’d chop off your middle finger to possibly save a little girl from death. It’s choc full of moral questions and society’s reach and what makes one human. Needless to say, with so much self-reflection and the first person point of view, it’s one of those books which makes you feel in a very empathetic, what-if sort of way. And then you remember that the point is that these are very real situations and you feel even more.

 

Rating*: free-bee-graphics-bumble-bees-clipart-image-5free-bee-graphics-bumble-bees-clipart-image-5free-bee-graphics-bumble-bees-clipart-image-5free-bee-graphics-bumble-bees-clipart-image-5half bee for book ratings

Explanation: 
+ characterization, two points of view, themes, contrast, realness
 bit slow at times, some overlap in narration

In Conclusion: This is the sort of book that should be taught in schools instead of Heart of Darkness. It’s relevant, it’s though-provoking, it’s capable of changing mindsets. It’s one of those books that I firmly believe everybody should read at least once in their lifetime.

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Review | The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

81bdonfzzolThe Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Also by this author: The Invention of Wings; The Mermaid Chair
Summary: Lily Owens remembers nothing of her mother aside from a hazy recollection of the day she died. Raised by the stand-in-mother, Rosaleen, Lily craves nothing more than the truth about the woman who was her mother. After being arrested for insulting the town’s nastiest racists, Lily springs herself and Rosaleen free of both the law and her abusive father, heading straight to the only link she has to her mother — Tiburon, South Carolina. Here, they find themselves in the home of three black beekeeping sisters, and here Lily finds her niche in the world. In the process of learning the art of beekeeping, Lily also discovers love, faith, and a whole hive of mothers.
Favorite Quote:  “And when you get down to it, Lily, that’s the only purpose grand enough for a human life. Not just to love–but to persist in love” (289).

 

Review: Came for the bees, stayed for the story — I absolutely adored this book. It had me hooked from the beginning, began to break me by page eight, and by the end I was basically a sobbing mess of emotion. Set in South Carolina in 1964, the world of Lily Owens obviously tackles racial tensions ranging from the Civil Rights Act allowing for black voters, all the way back to the oddity of a mixed household. Additionally, each character has their own hurdle to jump, no two the same: Rosaleen is trying to vote, Lily is a white girl living in a black household where no one believes she ought to belong, June is trying to trust again, May wants to keep the weight of the world off her shoulders, and Zach is fighting to be one ass-kicking lawyer. The diversity in their personalities, in the conflicts each individual character faces, was incredible to me. The humanity of it all sucked me in.

On the topic of faith: I’m not a very religious person myself, but I fell in love with Lily’s discovery of and developing relationship with the Boatwright sisters’ Lady of the Chains. The Black Madonna is a critical symbol throughout the story — she is, in a way, the mother of all the women throughout. She’s where Lily draws strength, determination, courage, and love when she otherwise feels as though she has none.

Lily’s voice, too, is beautiful. It’s not the voice of an adult, nor should it be, as she’s only 14, but it accurately portrays her maturity. Sometimes she’s awkward, sometimes she’s a lost little girl, but for the most part she’s introspective, a kid who grew up all too quickly for the world she lives in. Sometimes, the reader is reminded sharply of her age, while others it’s difficult to remember she isn’t another adult woman in the Boatwright household.

I don’t know, the whole thing is just… still so relevant. Racial tensions still exist, child abuse still exists, and above all, a human need to feel loved and accepted still exists. At its core, this book is about a young girl searching for her mother and instead finding a gaggle of them. Lily finds love in this home, with these women, and she uses this to win her independence from the weights she’s carried for the vast majority of her young life.

Rating*: free-bee-graphics-bumble-bees-clipart-image-5free-bee-graphics-bumble-bees-clipart-image-5free-bee-graphics-bumble-bees-clipart-image-5free-bee-graphics-bumble-bees-clipart-image-5free-bee-graphics-bumble-bees-clipart-image-5

Explanation: 
+ characters, voice, story line, overall message and themes, bees
nothing I can think of

In Conclusion: This book is a new fave. The characters are relatable, the voice unique, and the plot fascinating. 10/10 would recommend to readers looking for more racial diversity, readers looking for hardcore family feels, contemporary/realistic fiction fans, and/or bee lovers everywhere.