Little Bee Summary
by Chris Cleave

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Little Bee, by author Chris Cleave, first appeared in the United States in 2010. The original name of the novel, The Other Hand, was published in the U.K.

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This novel is told from two distinct perspectives: Little Bee, an illegal refugee, and Sarah, a British journalist. These two characters lives are entwined one fateful day on the beach in Nigeria. While Sarah and her now deceased husband, Andrew, take a second honeymoon to Nigeria to save their marriage, they become involved in a tense situation with Little Bee, her sister, and a group of armed terrorists. One of these people makes a great sacrifice to save Little Bee, but not her sister, from being murdered; however, the guilt and consequences of these choices play out in the rest of the story.

After her sister's murder, Little Bee is found and taken to prison where she meets many other refugees with heart-wrenching stories of torture and murder. When she is mistakenly released from prison, Little Bee travels to England to find Sarah and Andrew.

Sarah's story, though not as violent, is also complex. Trying to deal with her husband's suicide, her lingering affair, her young son, and her high-powered executive position, Sarah's own feelings begin to overtake her life, slowly crumbling her "together" exterior. When Little Bee appears in her garden the day of her husband's funeral, Sarah is able to find the answers to what happened after that fateful day on the beach and how and why Little Bee comes to England.

The interwoven relationship between these two women is beautiful to read, and Cleave precisely times his comic elements to relieve the heaviness of Sarah's guilt over her affair and her role, if any, in her husband's suicide. Little Bee's presence gives Sarah the strength to make hard choices in her life, including what to do with her lover, Lawrence, and whether or not she should keep a job that does not make her happy. Finally, the friendship these two share is ultimately tested in the closing chapters of the novel.