Book Review of Little Bee (aka The Other Hand)

Little Bee (aka The Other Hand)
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What's with the back cover? All mysterious and such?
"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:

This is the story of two women...(cont'd)


For all the mysteriousness on the back cover and the pages upon pages of high praise contained in my edition, I have to say I was prepared to be "blown away" (as The Washington Post promises on the front cover). But I wasn't.

Little Bee has fled her home country of Nigeria after first witnessing some horrific acts and then eluding capture and death. To escape what is surely to be her fate, she decides to be a stowaway on a cargo ship and winds up in the UK. As the book begins, she has just been released from a UK immigration detention center. Alone in a foreign country with only the clothes on her back, Little Bee seeks out the one English person she knows: Sarah, a mother and magazine editor who had an unusual encounter with Little Bee on a beach in Nigeria while on a holiday with her husband, Andrew.

The author's main focus in this book is the immigration status of refugees and the deplorable treatment they receive at these detention centers. Though the book isn't really a tirade versus the treatment of the refugees and the bureaucracy that encourages it, it does open the door for it to be investigated, discussed, etc. And that, in itself, is one of the great things about this book and one of the reasons why you should read it. (I mean, I had no idea this existed! And it happens in the UK?! I guess for once I am the egocentric American, as I thought We had cornered the market on the "this-is-mine-and-I-must-protect-it-from-the-likes-of-you" attitude.)

The book has two narrators: Little Bee and Sarah. And though the book's subject matter is important and should be read, I felt it fell flat - more so in Sarah's chapters than in Little Bee's. Little Bee's chapters and her plight as a refugee - not having anyone and not belonging anywhere, were more compelling. It's not a bad book, but it's not really as great as the four pages of praise would lead you to believe.