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rachelr's picture

Like trains of cars on tracks of plush
I hear the level bee:
A jar across the flowers goes,
Their velvet masonry

Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.

His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.

His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for a bee's experience
Of clovers and of noon!

Emily Dickinson

I was having trouble falling asleep Wednesday night so I decided to read a few chapters of “Little Bee” until I was tired. My plan was a failure. I tried putting the book down, actually put a bookmark in and closed the cover, but in the end I read it straight through until after 3am. It kept me wanting more. What happened on the beach that had such a lasting affect on so many lives? Could there be a peace for anyone after what they had all been through? How much more entangled could the story get? It felt like I was eating an artichoke, pealing outside layer after outside layer off as the center, the pièce de résistance became more intricate and complex the deeper I went. I was tumbling down a rabbit hole- an improbably but completely conceivable story of lives that are more difficult than I can imagine. Some things turned out the way I hoped; many conscious’s were cleared, Batman learned that you don’t have to be a superhero every waking moment. While most of my questions that sprang up as I was reading were answered by the end, the last few pages left me with my largest question yet: what happened to Little Bee? Sarah and Charlie? Lawrence?

Often best sellers that have a provocative new idea or a good twist end up poorly written and I am sorely disappointed. “Little Bee” was not one of these. I found so many ways to tie in so much of what we have been talking about: bodily presence, precarity, entanglement, power, home, to name a few. It was thought provoking, powerful, and emotional. I felt tense reading it, and could almost feel my heart rate increasing. Cleave brought to light so many lived moments that so many people see and experience on a daily basis. While when reading this novel I felt for Little Bee, her sister, and all the other refugees, how many times has the new taken the time to report even one detail on one death in Africa or the Middle East? When recently looking up the death toll in Sudan I saw the exact same number that I remember from four years ago. What does it take for us to notice a life? Again- who counts?