By Chris Cleave
Little Bee (also known as The Other Hand in U.K) is about a Nigerian asylum seeker in England. The story starts off in a British immigration detention centre. Little Bee has been in that centre for two years, and is finally released after a fellow refugee performs sexual favors for the detention officer. All she has with her is a business card and a driver’s license of Andrew O’Rouke, a British man. Little Bee met Andrew and his wife in Nigeria a few years back; and so, with nowhere to go, Little Bee heads off to the place where they live. She did call Andrew in the detention centre, but Andrew denies her existence, thinking it is an imposter, and tells her to not to come to his house. We learn that five days after this call, Andrew commits suicide, possibly due to guilt, and Little Bee arrives at the house.
Published by Sceptre, 2008
Little Bee attends the funeral with Sarah, Andrew’s wife. Sarah starts thinking about the events in Nigeria, where they met Little Bee and her sister. The trip to Nigeria was to salvage Sarah and Andrew’s marriage, after Andrew discovers that Sarah has been unfaithful to him. One day, whilst walking on the beach, they encounter Little Bee and her sister running away from soldiers. The soldiers burned their village and intended for no survivors. When the soldiers arrived at the beach to capture Little Bee and her sister, they immediately kill the guard who was protecting Sarah and Andrew. The soldiers then offer to save the lives of the girls in exchange for Andrew’s finger. Believing that they would take the girls anyway, Andrew refuses to cut off his finger, but Sarah does in his place. The soldiers did take away the girls, but, for the exchange, did keep Little Bee alive and she did manage to escape. However, Little Bee experienced her sister getting gang raped, murdered and cannibalized by the soldiers.
Little Bee and Sarah, years later, meet in Britain, and they form a strong relationship, including with Charlie, Sarah’s son. One day, while they all went to a park, Charlie goes missing, and Little Bee calls the police. The police find Charlie, but are suspicious of Little Bee (illegal immigrant), and take her away. Little Bee gets deported back to Nigeria. On her way, Sarah and Charlie accompany her; they found about Little Bee’s deportation to Nigeria. Sarah believes that Little Bee will be safe with her present. In Nigeria, Sarah and Little Bee begin to collect stories similar to Little Bee’s, and the atrocities that are happening in Nigeria. During a trip to the same beach where Sarah encounters Little Bee, the soldiers come to take Little Bee away. Despite being captured, Little Bee is not dispirited, and instead hopefully gazes on Charlie playing happily with the Nigerian children. The story ends here.
Many countries in Africa are still suffering from injustice and lack of rights, especially when tied with ‘business’. In Little Bee’s background, the soldiers razed villages to get land to mine diamonds. There are many instances where people get killed, raped, or worse due to these ‘industries’. Little Bee is just an example of how cruel life can get because of these factors. Another problem that this book shows is the problem with the asylum systems and the attitudes towards refugees. Everyone is entitled to his or her basic rights as human beings, and there are some people around the world lacking them.
Park Sungho, Intern