Oh, wow. February was filled with heavy reading material. I garnered a good bit of perspective from these books. While I could really use a good lighthearted book right now, I loved each of these books for the way they opened my eyes and made me appreciate the things I take for granted each day.
Little Bee, Chris Cleave
Little Bee is a Nigerian refugee, who is desperate to leave behind her tragic past. The book begins when Little Bee and her sister with a chance meeting with an English couple on a lone stretch of beach in Nigeria. This encounter ended horrifically for all parties involved. Little Bee was later detained when discovered as a refugee on a container ship bound for England. After a mistaken release from the immigration detention center, Little Bee crosses paths with the English couple, Sarah and Andrew, again. Constantly fearing the moment ”when the men come,” her capture would mean certain death upon her return to Nigeria.
“We knew what we had: we had nothing…That is how we lived, happily and without hope. I did not miss having a future because I did not know I was entitled to one.” Although Little Bee is fiction, the story is based on the greed and alleged genocide by the government and corporate oil companies in Nigeria, and the treatment of captured refugees in immigration removal centers. This book personalized the human atrocities that happen globally and demonstrated how easily they are overlooked or forgotten. Little Bee also illustrated how different our daily lives are than those living in third world countries. Yet, the book also reminded me that there are good people in this world that are willing to make sacrifices and do the right thing. It was a beautifully written and compelling story.
Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected, Kelle Hampton
As a long-term follower of Kelle Hampton’s Enjoying The Small Things blog, I was familiar with the story of her daughter, Nella. Kelle had it all – a loving husband, supportive friends, a beautiful daughter and another baby girl on the way. Life was good. Upon her daughter’s arrival, Kelle’s seemingly perfect work was rocked. As she laid her eyes on her newborn daughter, she realized she has Down syndrome. Her reaction – sadness, dread and the compulsion to run away from this tiny baby. Bloom is Kelle Hampton’s memoir, recounting her reaction to her new daughter’s diagnosis, her fear of the future with a special needs child, and her journey toward acceptance, love and learning to be her daughter’s biggest advocate. Kelle is an amazing writer, her words tugging at your heart and inspiring in ways that make you appreciate all the beauty that life has to offer. If you would like a preview of the book, read Nella’s birth story and a few of my favorite excerpts from Bloom:
“Living a life of comfort does nothing to make us grow…hard times shape us into interesting, developed characters.”
“I wouldn’t say my glass is always half full. There are days when it’s cracked and leaking, days when it’s chipped and even shattered. But then I get the Krazy Glue out and fix it, and suddenly it’s half full again. Even though it’s patched up in places, I’ve made it my own with the beveled edges and beautiful etchings that perspective brings.”
“The concept of perfection is not flawless or ripped from a magazine. It’s happiness. Happiness with all its messiness and not-quite-thereness. It’s knowing that life is short, and the moments we choose to fill our cup with should be purposeful and rich. That we should be present for life, that we should drink more deeply. And that’s perfection.”
In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
While in college, I went on a mission trip to a couple of orphanages in the Dominican Republic, near the Haitian border. The trip had a profound impact on me, making me appreciate bare essentials that we take for granted in the United States such as reliable sources of running water and electricity. While I was volunteering at the orphanage, the sponsoring organization showed us a movie based on a bestselling historical novel – In the Time of the Butterflies. It took me several years, but I finally picked up the book.
In the Time of the Butterflies is a historical novel about the Mirabal sisters of the Domican Republic – Patria, Dede, Minerva and Maria Teresa (Mate). The book begins in their childhood and continues into their adulthood, told from each of their perspectives in first and third person, at various stages of their lives. The girls were raised during the dictatorship of Trujillo. Once adults, three of the four sisters became involved with an underground movement to overthrow the Trujillo regime that had terrorized the country for decades. Their code name in the movement was “the butterflies.” The sisters were eventually discovered and imprisoned, along with their husbands and other family members. After their release from jail, the girls became a symbol of hope to the people of the Dominican Republic. In order to send a message to the political activist groups, Trujillo set up a trap for the girls on their way home from visiting their husbands in jail. The three girls and their driver escort were beaten to death along a deserted mountain road. Their car was then pushed off of a cliff, attempting to make it look like an accident. The remainder of the book is from the perspective of the lone living sister, Dede, who was not with her sisters on that fateful day. It was her duty to tell the girls’ stories and make sure they were not forgotten. After their tragic deaths, the girls were mourned by all and became national heroes, who are still celebrated today for their courage during the Dominican Republic’s darkest hours.
It is hard to pick a favorite of my February books! They were all great books, touching on a wide range of heavy topics. If I had to pick a favorite, I would say In the Time of the Butterflies, with Bloom coming in a close second. Little Bee was more of a stretch plot-wise, but I enjoyed Chris Cleave’s style of writing and Little Bee’s personality.
Any suggestions for lighthearted or funny books for March? Leave me some suggestions in the comments below!