Thursday, April 18, 2013

       “Wear Your Invisible Crown” would hereby like to reinstate the Book Review section. (Tada! Did that sound pompous enough?)  Although we’ve covered Motion Picture and Indie films in the past couple of months (Mona Lisa Smile and The Giant Mechanical Man), we haven’t cracked open a book on our blog since October (when we discussed Libba Bray’s Beauty Pageants. Please click on the label below to read that column). The book that we are featuring this month is the #1 New York Times Bestseller Little Bee.
       The back cover of Little Bee proudly asserts “Once you have read this book, 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.”  When I initially read this, I scoffed the cynic’s scoff. Will Little Bee really be the kind of book that elicits Twi-hard mania in me? Will it be the type of novel that is so emotionally acute that I’m suddenly inspired to start my own version of Oprah’s Book Club? Will I blog about it?
       Yes, yes, and yes. If Chris Cleave, the author of this novel, hires me as part of his Publicity Staff, then he’ll see an astronomical rise in sales.
        Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but I still declare my Little Bee fandom. Here’s why: This book has made me a little less self-absorbed. It analyzes “the vicissitudes of British Imperialism,” oil wars in Nigeria, and ethical decision-making through the eyes of an African teenage girl called Little Bee and a British mother named Sarah O’Rourke.
      These two characters “meet on a lonely, African beach and become inextricably bound through the horror imprinted on their encounter.”  Little Bee’s narration is what bolsters the heart-wrenching influence of this novel. Her tone is a unique blend of pure naïveté and pitiful world weariness. In spite of the exhaustive suffering she experiences in both England and Africa, she is still surprisingly hilarious. Her narration (which fills half of the book) is a joy to read. (Below is a photo of author Chris Cleave).
       The other half of the story is told by Sarah O’Rourke. Sarah is a suburban woman with a 4 year old son who is (perhaps clinically) obsessed with Batman. She also has a tendency to be insipid and vain. Yet readers warm up to Sarah when they discover her complex spousal relationship and monumental sacrifice. The juxtaposition of ruthless African murderers with freshly mowed lawns in Surrey, England is both deeply odd and intriguing.
In summation, this is how Little Bee affected me:
 1) It caused me to finally understand why Angelina Jolie is fiercely dedicated to rebuilding Africa. An American mother’s age-old refrain of “eat your string beans because the children in Africa are starving” has never been more credible to me. For the majority of my life, I’ve shielded myself from war-laden, politically complex, anguishing world news.  This is clearly a half blessing/half curse situation.
       Luckily though, Little Bee poured chilled-to-the-bone water over my third-world ignorance. The book is tinged with ugly, ugly violence. I will not lie. But, in my opinion, a novel’s power to alter a reader’s life stems from veracity and commitment to truth. This book would have little to no effect on me if I did not know about Nigeria's sadistic circumstances.
2) As sappy as this may sound, the novel shows that humans are capable of developing formidable inner strength. "Take it from me," Little Bee says at the outset, "a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived."     
       Readers, true to the prophecy printed on the back of this novel, I urge you to hit up Amazon or head to the local library for Little Bee. I’m actually on the way to the Brooklyn Public Library right now. Someone has put a hold on the book for the past two weeks, while I’ve been stubbornly hoarding it. Definitely racked up a bill by now!
(Caution: There is a bit of foul language in the book).


  1. Riveting. I could not put the book down. When it was over, I wished it weren't. Thank you for the recommendation. It was a great read.

    For the first time, a book made me feel self-conscious about myself and the life I live. There were numerous lines that gave me pause, here are but a few: "So when I say that I am a refugee, you must understand that there is no refuge." "This is the discipline I learned: whenever I go to a new place, I work out how I would kill myself." "This is how we lived, happily and without hope."

    I mightily enjoyed her- or is it his- "pound coin" analogy to the situation Little Bee found herself in. It was creative and ingeniously crafted.

    A lot of emotions coursed through me as I read, and it's one of the few books that I'd call a "not easy read" that I'd read again.

    Thanks again for the recommendation.

  2. What? You read it already? Wow! I'm super impressed! Did you get it from the library or buy it? I love the pound coin analogy too (and all those other sentences you mentioned)! Brilliant prose and characterization. I'm flattered that you actually took this recommendation seriously and am happy that you enjoyed the book. :-)

    1. I couldn't go to sleep until I finished it so it's a good thing I read it quickly. I got it as an ebook. It's the most convenient way to read books and the most annoying when you're in middle of a good one and Shabbos rolls around. I started and finished it last night.

      I confess, I wasn't convinced I was going to like it. I had a feeling I wouldn't. Your review was enthusiastic enough that I figured I should give it a go. I'm happy I did :)

    2. Yes, I felt the same exact way when reading it!

      I'm a Luddite and very un-tech advanced. No Kindles for me. I'm supporting the execution of trees and the survivial of print. Lol ;) But of course Kindles/E-Books rock in their own way.

      Your above comments depicted the poignancy of Little Bee quite well. Thumbs up! May I suggest you start a book review section on your blog as well so that I can know which books to read? Kidding. :)

    3. A Luddite that blogs? I'm going to have redefine my definition of Luddite to wrap my head around that! I'm for the execution of trees too, but only until my rabbi comes up with a kosher way to read an ebook on Shabbos and holidays. I suspect the trees will be gone long before I get the go ahead.

      I don't think I'd make a good book reviewer. I don't pay enough attention when I'm reading. But if I come across a particularly good book and I remember, I'll let you know :)

    4. Okay, you caught me in the act. I'm not such a Luddite. I have Facebook and a blog, but no Twitter. I didn't own a Smart Phone up until a day ago. Perhaps I'm a semi-Luddite?

      Anyways, I think you'd make a fine book reviewer. You pointed out some of the best lines in the book. But, okay, I'll settle for your personal book recommendations too ;)

    5. Ha. Semi-Luddite sounds good. Congrats on getting a smart phone. Now that you have one, you'll wonder how you've lived without it.

      Thanks. It's easier to analyze a book when I'm not sure if I'll enjoy it. If it's by an author I know I like, I let myself get swept into the content and don't pay attention to the style or anything else that I'd normally home in on for a critical analysis. Know what I mean?

    6. Let's raise a glass to Semi-Luddites, then! I remember you mentioning that you don't have FB, so maybe you're one too.(Good and wise call, by the way...Facebook can be a burden).

      To some extent,yes,I know what you mean.:)

    7. Haha! No no, it has nothing to do with me not liking technology. I don't have one because I couldn't stand the drama and the amount of time I was wasting on it. Or as you put it, it became a burden.


    8. Ohhh...ok, I gotchya now ;) Kudos on standing up to Facebook.

  3. I read this book a while ago. It is definitely a book I'll always remember. I liked your summation of it, and in contrast to many other books where you read it and move on, this one has certainly affected me. (Btw, I LOVED the Giant Mechanical Man, although I haven't seen your review on it.)

  4. Wow! So glad you liked. We have similar tastes in books/films I guess...:) Isn't the Giant Mechanical Man awesome?! Loved it. Thanks for checking in with my blog :)