Told in first person from two points of view, Chris Cleave's Little Bee is the story of a young Nigerian refugee and her unlikely savior, Sarah. The book is written well enough, although I sometimes grew tired of the chapters told from Little Bee's point of view. The delight of the story is Sarah's son Charles (a.k.a. Batman, because he refuses to take off is Batman costume). His antics give the story some much needed levity.
I have two observations about the book. First, it's tragic. Epically tragic. Horrifically tragic. In fact just when you think it can't get any more tragic, it gets more tragic. Some of that misery felt heavy handed and overworked.
But the tragedy leads me to my second observation: Maybe we need a little heavy-handed, hit-you-over-the-head-with-its-horror story telling when it comes to the travesties occurring in Nigeria and other areas of Africa. I regularly read holocaust stories that are tragic. Epically tragic. Horrifically tragic. And somehow they don't seem as annoying. Maybe that's because they happened in the past and I can soothe my conscience by thinking I would have done the right thing if I'd been alive at that time. But I'm alive in a time when terrible things are happening to entire populations in Africa and around the globe. And this book makes me wonder if I'm doing the right thing. Do I even know what the right thing is? Have I spent enough time to educate myself about the situation? So while the tragedy of this book can be uncomfortable, it at least made me want to be more aware of difficult global situations so that if and when the opportunity arises, I might be more likely to do the right thing.