Book Review: Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

Tonight is World Book Night, and I'll be distributing copies of Little Bee in Annapolis, Maryland. 

The description on the back of Little Bee states simply, "We don't want to tell you what happens in this book. It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know enough to buy it, so we will just say this..."

But then it also makes a big ask of its readers, especially when one is also a reviewer: "Once you have read it, you'll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds."

And no matter how pompous this book description may be, I think they are on to something. Because at a glance, Little Bee appears to be a straightforward story about two women who meet one day by happenstance, and who meet again two years later. But in fact, it is much more complex than that. It is a story about choices and decisions, about life and death, about love and family, about fear, about belonging, about escape, about loyalty. It is a story about how our lives are never as independent as we imagine they are; like George Bailey, we are not always aware of how much of an impact we actually have on those around us--or on those far away.

Little Bee is intense and weighty, a book that lasts long past its end. Which is not to say that it is sad, but then, it is also not hopeful. It simply is, and that's enough for it. As the blurb says, the magic is in its unfolding--and the unfolding is something Chris Cleave handles with great care, teasing just enough detail to keep the story moving without ever giving too much away.

But it works. Somehow, despite the occasional critics that claim otherwise, it works. It comes together, and it means something, and that something, I feel, is a something that can change for each individual reader, and that something is why I chose this book to give away for World Book Night tonight. Of course, I didn't quite think through the details of promoting a book to stranger without giving away the story, even a little bit. Luckily I think fast when I'm talking. I hope.


Thoughts from other bookworms:
Beth Fish Reads
The Book Lady's Blog
Man of la Book


Little Bee | Chris Cleave | Simon & Schuster | $14.00 Trade Paper | 304 pgs | February 2010 | 9781416589648 | Buy from an independent bookstore near you


  1. I loved Little Bee-- and am so glad to hear that you'll be handing it out for WBN! I'm traveling around the metro after work today with copies of Ender's Game and can't WAIT to see what conversations pop up

  2. This one has been on my radar for a very long time now, and I do thank you for reminding me to get off my tookus and actually read it!


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