Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

As the official Debbie Downer of TFA, I feel I need to defend my reading choices.  It's true I gravitate toward books with heavier subjects.  Often, they are about things I will never experience or witness in my lifetime.  I have little in common with sixteenth or seventeenth century slaves.  I have never had to witness a family member do something unspeakably illegal or immoral.  I have not been abducted and forced to live in seclusion for years.  My childhood was happy, surrounded by family members who are unique, quirky, often obnoxious, but still part of a loving family.  I have lost loved ones but for the most part to the everyday causes of age and illness.  In sum, I do not read the books I read because I'm seeking a kindred spirit or character in a similar situation.  I read the books I read because they are not part of my familiar.  By reading books like Little Bee, I get to hear voices of others that I would most likely never hear otherwise.  I can't do anything about the institution of slavery. I can personally affect little change to human rights issues in Africa.  I can not undo the pain and emotional toll that broken people have on others.  But I can show that I care by listening to their voices.  I read the books I read because these voices have important stories and the worst thing I could do (in my opinion and I'm only speaking for me here) is not listen.  

Little Bee is an important voice.  It is both beautiful and difficult to read.  The pain, in parts, is palpable.  The brokenness of the situation is too large to ever be fully corrected.  The characters are not always easy to love, or even like.  But you should read it.  You should read it if for nothing else as a reminder of what you have that can not be taken from you.  You should also read it because the language is beautiful.  Sometimes I had to stop reading and just sit and think about the words I had read....not necessarily the story, but the words. {Side note:  Am I alone in this?  Does anyone else ever get caught up in how the author was able to string together commonplace words and end up making extraordinary thoughts?  I'm just WAY jealous of the people who can do that.  Perhaps using "dude" less in conversation will increase my chances of making something beautiful.  Whatever, dude.}  For example,  Little Bee says (on page nine in the event you want to look it up) "I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly.  That is what the scar makers want us to think.  But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them.  We must see all scars as beauty.  Okay?  This will be our secret.  Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying.  A scar means, I survived."  Those are all ordinary words but they come to mean something a lot more the way Mr. Cleave put them together.  And that's not the only thing well-written throughout the story.

The plot itself is fairly complicated, as life tends to be.  Little Bee in an immigrant to England from Nigeria. When we meet her, she is in a detention center for immigrants awaiting proper documentation or judgment.  The women in the center are in limbo.  When Little Bee is released she sets off for the one contact she has in England; a couple she met on a beach in Nigeria under horrible circumstances.  The story then becomes how she and the wife begin to navigate new lives.  The wife must learn what life is without her husband and as a single mother, while Little Bee must learn to live in a new place with her old memories.  There are a lot of other secrets to come out and the back of the book asks me not to tell you what happens, and I won't because you should really read it for yourself.  It may be sad, but as Little Bee says, "Sad words are just another beauty." (Also on page nine!  Dude!)  So read it.  Be thankful for what you have.  Find beauty in your scars.
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