Archive for February, 2010

Review of My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

My Stroke of Insight

A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey

by Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD
read by the Author

Penguin Audio, 2008. 5 CDs. 5 hours, 44 minutes.
Starred Review.

Jill Bolte Taylor was a Harvard brain scientist, a neuroanatomist, when she experienced a stroke at age 37, completely disabling the left hemisphere of her brain.

Because she knew so much about the brain, she found herself watching with fascination as the stroke took away more and more of her abilities, as blood was flooding different parts of her brain. She was home alone, unable to understand spoken language or read written language, but she did get occasional waves of clarity, so she managed to figure out what was happening and call for help, even though it took her a long time to figure out what number to call and how to call that number and she didn’t know what the other person on the end of the line was saying.

It’s fascinating when she tells how she perceived the world when only her right brain was working. She says she felt at one with the universe, like a fluid. She didn’t know where her own body began and ended. She didn’t know what she was seeing, because her eyes just saw random pixels, and she lost her ability to find edges and define shapes.

It took her eight years, but she eventually recovered completely. Though maybe her voice isn’t as accomplished as a professional actress, it meant a lot that she read the audiobook, because the listener can hear for yourself that she is now once again fluent with language.

This book is informative and interesting on so many levels. For the merely curious, it offers all kinds of fascinating information about our brains and how they work. For those who experience stroke some day, it tells you the warning signs, so you may recognize when they are happening. For those who care for a stroke survivor, it tells you how to be an understanding and uplifting caregiver. For example, it’s helpful to remember that they are not deaf, they are just having trouble processing what they hear, so raising your voice is the opposite of helpful. The book also explains the things that helped Dr. Taylor to recover completely.

I found it fascinating that when only her right brain was working, Dr. Taylor found herself much more sensitive to a person’s energy. She could easily sense if someone was angry or tense or worried, and those people were not nice to be around. But she could also easily sense loving, compassionate people, and she experienced those people as a healing presence.

In her right brain, Dr. Taylor was much more peaceful and joyful. She did find, as she recovered, that she could choose which of her old brain patterns to allow to come back into play. She chose not to restore old patterns of resentment and anger. A big part of her stroke of insight was finding out how much that goes on in our brains is our own choice.

The word I keep thinking of in association with this book is “fascinating.” It’s a tremendously interesting story for anyone who has a brain.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/my_stroke_of_insight.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Review of Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Why Does He Do That?

Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

by Lundy Bancroft

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 2002. 408 pages.
Starred Review.

This is a fascinating, informative, and tremendously helpful book. Lundy Bancroft has worked for years with abusive men and their partners. He understands how they think and why they do what they do. He’s seen the same behaviors and patterns come out again and again.

This book communicates his deep understanding of abusive men, clearing up many common myths about domestic abuse. He talks about what a man needs to do in order to change and helps the partner understand how she should respond.

His introduction says it well:

“I have been working with angry and controlling men for fifteen years as a counselor, evaluator, and investigator, and have accumulated a wealth of knowledge from the two thousand or more cases with which I have been involved. I have learned the warning signs of abuse and control that a woman can watch out for early in a relationship. I’ve come to know what a controlling man is really saying, the meaning that is hidden behind his words. I’ve seen clues to recognizing when verbal and emotional aggression are heading toward violence. I’ve found ways to separate out abusive men who are faking change from those who are doing some genuine work on themselves. And I have learned that the problem of abusiveness has surprisingly little to do with how a man feels — my clients actually differ very little from nonabusive men in their emotional experiences — and everything to do with how he thinks. The answers are inside his mind.

“However, as delighted as I am to have had the opportunity to gain this insight, I am not one of the people who most needs it. The people who can best benefit from knowledge about abusers and how they think are women, who can use what I have learned to help themselves recognize when they are being controlled or devalued in a relationship, to find ways to get free of abuse if it is happening, and to know how to avoid getting involved with an abusive man — or a controller or a user — next time. The purpose of this book is to equip women with the ability to protect themselves, physically and psychologically, from angry and controlling men.”

Along the way, he presents answers to twenty-one questions he is commonly asked by women about their abusive partners, as a way of giving them the information they most need to hear.

I like his central goal:

“If your partner’s controlling or devaluing behavior is chronic, you no doubt find yourself thinking about him a great deal of the time, wondering how to please him, how to keep him from straying, or how to get him to change. As a result, you may find that you don’t get much time to think about yourself — except about what is wrong with you in his eyes. Once of my central reasons for writing this book is, ironically, to help you think about him less. I’m hoping that by answering as many questions as possible and clearing away the confusion that abusive behavior creates, I can make it possible for you to escape the trap of preoccupation with your partner, so that you can put yourself — and your children if you are a mother — back in the center of your life where you belong. An angry and controlling man can be like a vacuum cleaner that sucks up a woman’s mind and life, but there are ways to get your life back. The first step is to learn to identify what your partner is doing and why he does it, which is what the pages ahead will illuminate. but when you have finished diving deeply into the abuser’s mind, which this book will enable you to do, it is important to rise back to the surface and from then on try to stay out of the water as much as you can. I don’t mean that you should necessarily leave your partner — that is a complex and highly personal decision that only you can make. But whether you stay or go, the critical decision you can make is to stop letting your partner distort the lens of your life, always forcing his way into the center of the picture. You deserve to have your life be about you; you are worth it.”

At the beginning of the book he explains what abuse is. It’s surprisingly hard to spot in your own relationship, since the partner never starts out by being abusive.

“One of the obstacles to recognizing chronic mistreatment in relationships is that most abusive men simply don’t seem like abusers. They have many good qualities, including times of kindness, warmth, and humor, especially in the early period of a relationship. an abuser’s friends may think the world of him. He may have a successful work life and have no problems with drugs or alcohol. He may simply not fit anyone’s image of a cruel or intimidating person. So when a woman feels her relationship spinning out of control, it is unlikely to occur to her that her partner is an abuser.

“The symptoms of abuse are there, and the woman usually sees them: the escalating frequency of put-downs. Early generosity turning more and more to selfishness. Verbal explosions when he is irritated or when he doesn’t get his way. Her grievances constantly turned around on her, so that everything is her own fault. His growing attitude that he knows what is good for her better than she does. And, in many relationships, a mounting sense of fear or intimidation. But the woman also sees that her partner is a human being who can be caring and affectionate at times, and she loves him. She wants to figure out why he gets so upset, so that she can help him break his pattern of ups and downs. She gets drawn into the complexities of his inner world, trying to uncover clues, moving pieces around in an attempt to solve an elaborate puzzle.”

A partner being abused commonly accepts all that blame when it begins. Lundy Bancroft’s words are comforting:

“Part of how the abuser escapes confronting himself is by convincing you that you are the cause of his behavior, or that you at least share the blame. But abuse is not a product of bad relationship dynamics, and you cannot make things better by changing your own behavior or by attempting to manage your partner better. Abuse is a problem that lies entirely within the abuser.”

“The abuser creates confusion because he has to. He can’t control and intimidate you, he can’t recruit people around him to take his side, he can’t keep escaping the consequences of his actions, unless he can throw everyone off the track. When the world catches on to the abuser, his power begins to melt away. So we are going to travel behind the abuser’s mask to the heart of his problem. This journey is critical to the health and healing of abused women and their children, for once you grasp how your partner’s mind works, you can begin reclaiming control of your own life. Unmasking the abuser also does him a favor, because he will not confront — and overcome — his highly destructive problem as long as he can remain hidden.”

Some good points the author makes about abuse, based on years of working with abusers are:

“Abuse grows from attitudes and values, not feelings. The roots are ownership, the trunk is entitlement, and the branches are control.

“Abuse and respect are opposites. Abusers cannot change unless they overcome their core of disrespect toward their partners.

“Abusers are far more conscious of what they are doing than they appear to be. However, even their less-conscious behaviors are driven by their core attitudes.

“Abusers are unwilling to be nonabusive, not unable. They do not want to give up power and control.

“You are not crazy. Trust your perceptions of how your abusive partner treats you and thinks about you.”

Here are some good points from the chapter on how abuse begins:

“You do not cause your partner’s slide into abusiveness, and you cannot stop it by figuring out what is bothering him or by increasing your ability to meet his needs. Emotional upset and unmet needs have little to do with abusiveness.

“Certain behaviors and attitudes are definitional of abuse, such as ridiculing your complaints of mistreatment, physically intimidating you, or sexually assaulting you. If any of these is present, abuse has begun.

“Abused women aren’t ‘codependent.’ It is abusers, not their partners, who create abusive relationships.”

Then he talks about how abuse looks in everyday lives. These are some of the points:

“For the most part, an abusive man uses verbally aggressive tactics in an argument to discredit your statements and silence you. In short, he wants to avoid having to deal seriously with your perspective in the conflict.

“Arguments that seem to spin out of control ‘for no reason’ actually are usually being used by the abusive man to achieve certain goals, although he may not always be conscious of his own motives. His actions and statements make far more sense than they appear to.”

“Be cautious, and seek out assistance. You don’t deserve to live like this, and you don’t have to. Try to block his words out of your mind and believe in yourself. You can do it.”

In the chapter toward the end on abusers who change, the author advises:

“You cannot, I am sorry to say, get an abuser to work on himself by pleading, soothing, gently leading, getting friends to persuade him, or using any other nonconfrontational method. I have watched hundreds of women attempt such an approach without success. The way you can help him change is to demand that he do so, and settle for nothing less….

“Those abusive men who make lasting changes are the ones who do so because they realize how badly they are hurting their partners and children — in other words, because they learn to care about what is good for others in the family and develop empathy, instead of caring only about themselves.”

There’s a lot more in this book. I like some of the advice to the abused woman toward the end:

“If you give yourself a long enough taste of life without being cut down all the time, you may reach a point where you find yourself thinking, Go back to that? For what? Maybe I’ll never stop loving him, but at least I can love him from a distance where he can’t hurt me.

The only time an abusive man will deal with his issues enough to become someone you can live with is when you prove to him, and to yourself, that you are capable of living without him. And once you succeed in doing so, you may very well decide that living without him is what you would rather do. Keep an open mind, and make sure you are not clipping your own wings on top of the clipping that he has given them.”

Can you tell that I’m trying to cram all the good advice and important information into this review? There are many common myths about abusive situations in our culture, and this book cuts through the mythology and shows you the truth. If you suspect you might be in an abusive relationship, or if you have a friend or relative in an abusive relationship, I highly recommend reading this book.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/why_does_he_do_that.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Catching Up

Friday, February 19th, 2010

I started Sonderbooks back in 2001, before I’d heard of a “blog”. It started as an e-mail newsletter, which before long I turned into a website. I was regular about posting until 2005-2007, when my marriage fell apart, I moved from Germany back to the States, and studied for and got a Master’s in Library Science. Along the way, I learned more about XML and website design, so I upgraded the look of the website, but didn’t transfer the more than a thousand reviews I’d already written.

Eventually, I added a blog, because the more I learned about them, the more I realized they were perfect for what I was doing — reviewing books as I read them. However, I wanted to keep the website going, since a book is still good even years after I’ve written the review. Besides, I didn’t want to lose all the reviews I’d already written before I started the blog.

I love writing Sonderbooks! I began it as a way to share all the great books I was reading with my friends. It has become a way that I’ve met new friends and helped people find good books to read. It’s also a way to keep track of all the great books I’ve read.

Back in December, I wanted to get through the pile of books that I’d read but hadn’t reviewed. I decided to just focus on writing the reviews and not worry yet about posting them to the main site. Well, I did it! I caught up and got rid of my big pile of books and posted my 2010 Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

Now I’m trying to get all those reviews on my blog posted to the main site. I’m trying to read slowly while I’m doing that! The easiest way is to post all the books from one genre at a time. So far, I’ve posted the Teen Fiction, Picture Books, and Children’s Fiction reviews. I still need to post Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children’s Nonfiction. Once I’ve done that, I will feel happily caught up.

But that’s what’s going on, and why my new reviews are coming a little less frequently for awhile.

Review of Making Mischief, by Gregory Maguire

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Making Mischief

A Maurice Sendak Appreciation

by Gregory Maguire

William Morrow (HarperCollins), 2009. 200 pages.
Starred Review.

Lavishly illustrated with Maurice Sendak’s creations, Making Mischief is based on a symposium on Maurice Sendak’s work which Gregory Maguire presented in 2003. He goes into far more depth than I expected, and gives the reader a whole new appreciation of Maurice Sendak as an artist.

The approach Gregory Maguire takes is much more interesting than a simple chronological summary of Sendak’s work. He begins by discussing Maurice Sendak’s artistic influences, with fascinating examples from his artwork.

Next, he looks at four motifs that appear throughout Sendak’s work: Flying, reading, children, and other monsters. He approaches Sendak’s life work “as if it were a single creative act,” looking at it as a whole.

Then he looks at some unifying factors, such as the way his paintings so often look like a scene on a stage, with a traveling ensemble of characters.

I especially enjoyed the last two chapters. In Chapter Four, he shows us his personal answers to the following question:

“Suppose all of Sendak’s artwork were hanging in a museum on the corner, and the building caught on fire. You have the chance to save only ten pieces of artwork for posterity. Which ten do you save, dear?”

The final chapter, Chapter Five, I found especially delightful. He presents the complete text of Where the Wild Things Are, illustrated with wholly different illustrations from Maurice Sendak’s work, including eleven different images for the phrase, “and it was still hot.” Almost as much fun as a wild rumpus!

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/making_mischief.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Review of Mare’s War, by Tanita S. Davis

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Mare’s War

by Tanita S. Davis

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2009. 341 pages.
A 2010 Coretta Scott King Honor Book

I’ve always enjoyed books about teens driving with an elderly relative or acquaintance and being changed by the experience. Some notable examples are Rules of the Road, by Joan Bauer, Hit the Road, by Caroline B. Cooney, and Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech.

Mare’s War is along those lines. Octavia and her older sister Tali have been ordered to spend their summer vacation driving across the country with their grandmother, Mare, to go to a reunion in Alabama. Along the way, Mare tells them about her days as a member of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.

I didn’t think Mare’s War was as powerful as the other books I’ve mentioned in the driving-with-the-elderly genre. In the first place, Mare’s story was told in separate chapters, as she experienced it at the time, not in the actual words she would have used to tell her granddaughters. And although the girls were interested in her story, they weren’t significantly changed by it. The book felt on the long side, because they were taking a leisurely road trip juxtaposed with Mare just getting through the war, so the plot had no sense of urgency.

However, Mare’s story was fascinating, so I still enjoyed the book very much. I had no idea that a company of black women served in the US Army overseas during World War II. I thought Tanita Davis did a great job expressing what that must have been like for those women.

The girls do gain a new appreciation for their grandmother, and the reader does, too. We definitely root for her as she experiences things completely new, learns how capable she truly is, and forms friendships she can count on forever.

This book shines a light on a piece of history I never thought about before, and tells a good story at the same time.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/mares_war.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Review of Kitchen Table Wisdom, by Rachel Naomi Remen

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Kitchen Table Wisdom

Stories That Heal

by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

Riverhead Books, New York, 10th Anniversary Edition, 2006. 337 pages.
Starred Review.

In her Preface to the 10th Anniversary Edition, Rachel Naomi Remen writes,

“Because I am not a writer, when I sat down to write, all I had were my memories. The stories I had lived through and the stories I had shared. The stories people had told me in the supermarket, on airplanes and in the ladies room. So I told my computer a story. And then another. And another. When the manuscript deadline arrived, I had four hundred pages of little stories.

“I was mortified that this was all that I had to show after a year of work. In the world of medicine, where things that can be expressed in numbers are considered truer than things that can only be expressed in words, stories are considered poor form and storytellers are highly suspect. My tendency to tell stories had always been frowned upon by my medical colleagues and rejected as ‘anecdotal evidence.’ They preferred to measure truth in terms of hard data. So I had learned to keep my stories to myself….

“Now, ten years later, I too am less afraid, less apologetic. When I wrote Kitchen Table Wisdom, I had no idea what it would come to mean to people, about the way it would reach people and strengthen them, the way it would touch people and make them feel less alone. I have discovered the power of story to change people. I have seen a story heal shame and free people from fear, ease suffering and restore a lost sense of worth. I have learned that the ways we can befriend and strengthen the life in one another are very simple and very old. Stories have not lost their power to heal over generations. Stories need no footnotes.”

In the original Introduction, she talks about how she found these stories, when male doctors asked her to talk with patients, expecting a woman to be more comfortable with that.

“At first, I was surprised that people with the same disease had such very different stories. Later I became deeply moved by these stories, by the people and the meaning they found in their problems, by the unsuspected strengths, the depths of love and devotion, the rich and human tapestry initiated by the pathology I was studying and treating. Eventually, these stories would become far more compelling to me than the disease process. I would come to feel more personally enriched by them than by making the correct diagnosis. They would make me proud to be a human being.

“These stories engaged me at another, more hidden point. I too suffer from an illness, Crohn’s disease, a chronic, progressive intestinal disease which I had developed at the age of fifteen. So for me, these conversations eased a certain loneliness. This was a different sort of connection than the easy banter and camaraderie I enjoyed with the other medical residents. This was the conversation of people in bomb shelters, people under siege, people in times of common crisis everywhere. I listened to human beings who were suffering, and responding to their suffering in ways as unique as their fingerprints. Their stories were inspiring, moving, important. In time, the truth in them began to heal me.

“Everybody is a story. When I was a child, people sat around kitchen tables and told their stories. We don’t do that so much anymore. Sitting around the table telling stories is not just a way of passing time. It is the way the wisdom gets passed along. The stuff that helps us to live a life worth remembering. Despite the awesome powers of technology many of us still do not live very well. We may need to listen to each other’s stories once again.”

For some time now, I’ve been reading one or two of these stories every morning. What a blessing! They are stories of healing, stories of wonder, stories of transcendence. And they do pass along wisdom, a wisdom Dr. Remen learned from people coming from all walks of life. Truly a beautiful book.

“All stories are full of bias and uniqueness; they mix fact with meaning. This is the root of their power. Stories allow us to see something familiar through new eyes. We become in that moment a guest in someone else’s life, and together with them sit at the feet of their teacher. The meaning we may draw from someone’s story may be different from the meaning they themselves have drawn. No matter. Facts bring us to knowledge, but stories lead to wisdom.”

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/kitchen_table_wisdom.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Caught Up!

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Hooray! I’ve now written reviews of all the books I have read and was meaning to review! I’m caught up!

Well, almost…. I still need to post all the reviews on my main site, starting with a page for the Sonderbooks Stand-outs 2010. I will update the site by genre, since it’s easier to post all the books on one page at a time. For example, the teen books, then the picture books, and so on. Though I may start with the category with the least to add. Or maybe whichever category the next book I finish reading is in.

Anyway, for tonight, I’m happy to have finished writing the reviews. I wasn’t quite sure I would ever catch up! But I did! Hooray! Now I will get them posted, and then it should be easier to stay caught up, right?

Review of If America Were a Village, by David J. Smith

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

If America Were a Village

A Book about the People of the United States

written by David J. Smith

illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong

Kids Can Press, 2009. 32 pages.
Starred Review.

I think this is a very cool book. It makes statistics accessible and understandable to children — and to adults.

The premise of the book is this: America now has more than 306 million people, and numbers that big are hard to understand. So we are going to imagine that all the people who live here are reduced down to a village of 100 people. The author proceeds to describe that village, and also what the village would have been like in earlier times of American history. Each person in the village represents more than 3 million Americans in the real world.

The author is presenting percentages, but by talking about actual people in a village, it’s far simpler to visualize and comprehend.

The author discusses many different aspects of the village. What languages do we speak? Where do we come from? Where do we live? What are our families like? (Did you know there are almost twice as many households in our village without children as with?) What religions do we practice? What do we do? How old are we? How wealthy are we? What do we own? What do we use? How healthy are we?

For example:
“If the America of today were a village of 100: 15 would be of German ancestry, 11 would be of Irish ancestry, 9 African, 9 English, 7 Mexican, 6 Italian, 3 Polish, 3 French, 3 Native American, 2 Scottish, 2 Dutch, 2 Norwegian, 1 Scotch-Irish and 1 Swedish. The rest have other backgrounds.”

I don’t know about you, but I would never have guessed that breakdown, and there were many other surprising facts in this book.

In many of the sections, the author compares the American village to the rest of the world, or to America’s past.

It’s funny how talking about America as a village makes a huge list of facts suddenly much more interesting, because now they are in a form you can visualize.

The authors have another book, which I also recommend, called If the World Were a Village. There are nice resources at the end, and ideas for using the book in the classroom.

I like the author’s ending statement in the notes at the back:
“It is my hope that this book will enrich and improve that sense of community — not just who we are, where we live and what we do and believe, but also where others live and what they do and what they believe — and that kids will then be inspired to find ways to make their country and their world a better place.”

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/if_america_were_a_village.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Review of The Book That Eats People, by John Perry

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

The Book That Eats People

by John Perry
illustrations by Mark Fearing

Tricycle Press, 2009. 36 pages.

This book is hilarious. I don’t think I can use it for storytime, because the body count is quite high, and I don’t want to scare very young children. For school-age children old enough to be pretty sure it’s all a joke (Though they may be careful just the same.), this book is perfect.

It all started one day in Little Rock, Arkansas, when Sammy Ruskin forgot to wash his hands after lunch, and the book tasted peanut butter on his fingers.

“So the book — this book — went SNAP! And took a bite! And then another and another. Sammy squirmed and wriggled. Sammy squealed and yelled. Sammy pulled as hard as he could, but the book ate him. Then it coughed up his bones and they clattered across the floor like wooden blocks.”

Sammy was only the first person the book ate. Then its pages tell of further nefarious adventures. It ate a security guard at the library. It ate innocent children. When they tried putting it in jail, it ate its cellmate.

Eventually, when the zookeepers weren’t able to tame it, they put a label on it that says THE BOOK THAT EATS PEOPLE in big, bold letters.

So if you find a book that looks like that, be careful.

Never read it with syrupy fingers.

Never read it with cookies in your pocket.

Remember, it’s always hungry.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/book_that_eats_people.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Review of Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Little Bee

by Chris Cleave

read by Anne Flosnik

Tantor Audio, 2009. 11 hours. 9 compact discs.
Starred Review.

This is not a cheery story. A few weeks earlier, I checked out the book on Hot Picks, but I saw it was going to have some awful scenes, so I decided not to read it. However, when I began listening to the audio version, I was utterly enchanted.

Two different characters take turns narrating the story. The first, Little Bee, is an illegal refugee to the United Kingdom from Africa. She takes up the tale to tell what happened when she was released from the Immigration Detention Center after two years. Her African accent is mesmerizing. Her way of looking at the world is captivating. Her images are delightful. Her story is terrible, but she has an inner light that shines in spite of all that happened to her.

Sarah is the other narrator. With her proper British accent, she tells what happened on the day Little Bee showed up at her house, the day of her husband Andrew’s funeral. She had met Little Bee two years before, on a beach in Nigeria, on a day that changed all their lives.

Now, in a suburb of London, Sarah is left with her four-year-old son who refuses to remove his Batman costume. Sarah has two, so one can be cleaned while he’s wearing the other. Little Charlie is so realistic, so funny, and so pathetic, as he represents all of them wearing a secret identity.

The two women tell their stories out of sequence, so by the time you find out what happened on the beach, you are completely enthralled, wanting desperately to know every detail. The storytelling is masterfully done, with wonderful images that make you look at life with a fresh perspective.

I have to admit that this book included one of the most horrible scenes I have ever imagined. It didn’t even end happily. But I loved the book. Anne Flosnik doing Little Bee’s voice completely won me over right from the start. Hearing the words with an African accent gave them much more power than when I tried to read the print version myself. I liked Little Bee right away, and wanted to hear her story.

This book has some tough issues, so it’s not for everyone. But it is superbly crafted, and I highly recommend it. Especially the audio version, which is exquisite.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/little_bee.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.