March 2024
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Review: The Other Hand, Chris Cleave

This book is about two women who come into contact in a rather terrible way.  One, Sarah, goes on to continue with her ordinary privileged life, while the other, Little Bee, runs in order to save her life, and ends up a detained asylum seeker.  Two years later, they come into contact again, where this story begins.

I have no idea how to review this book without spoiling it.  I mostly just want to tell you to go buy it and read it now, but I like to be more detailed than that.

So first, I will say, I had my doubts about the author.  Chris Cleave is a white male reporter, and the narrators of the book are women.  One of them is an illegal immigrant from Nigeria, and I had no idea how the author was going to make her believable.  But he did, and I honestly forgot that the author of the book was a white guy.  Little Bee was an incredibly compelling character and I just loved her voice.  It seemed perfect to me as she drew me into this story that is half horrific and half hopeful.  My heart broke and then I smiled two pages later.  She’s an amazing character, and both she and Sarah, the other woman, are so fantastically well drawn.

Even when finishing I had my doubts about the authenticity of the narrative.  Even though the story was beyond powerful, I didn’t know if this sort of thing actually happened.  And then I saw that Little Bee’s character was based on interviews of real women, and many of the incidents described especially in the beginning were taken from reality, even though this story itself and the locations mentioned are largely fictional.  I can’t even describe how sad this made me.

It also made me angry.  This is a book that will make you want to change the world.  It’s a book about how many people are wrong, and even though we like to think we’re doing things right, maybe we’re not.  But maybe we are – and maybe we can do better if we try.  It’s about the strength that individual people have, and how seeing and loving makes a difference.  It left me with tears on my face (a rare occurrence) but I still had hope.  I hope that people like this can actually exist.  These characters spoke to me so deeply that I wanted to be like them, I wanted to know I would make the sacrifices that they did.

I loved The Other Hand and right now, it’s my favorite book of the year.

I am an Amazon Associate. This book is known as Little Bee in the US. I purchased this book.


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