By Khaled Hosseini
I had been eagerly waiting for Khaled Hosseini's next book. And wow! What a beautiful book it turned out to be. Read on to know my thoughts about Sea Prayer.
What to expect?
Sea Prayer is a short read consisting of only 48 pages. It is an illustrated read full of beautiful watercolor illustrations which do a wonderful job of creating a strong impact. There are much fewer words than I expected and the story is more like a message or a poem but it is a story worth reading.
The story as it goes
The story in Sea Prayer is told in the form of a monologue from a father to his young son Marwan. The father is waiting on a moonlit beach along with many other refugees of different nationalities (Iraqis, Afghans, Syrians etc.) for a boat which will take them to safety in a faraway land. The father has lost his wife and the son his mother, and now, they only have each other to hold on to.
The father tries to put his son to sleep while narrating to him memories of his own childhood - his grandmother's house in outskirts of the city of Homs, the bleating of their goat, the olive trees dancing in the wind, the beautiful meadows of red flowers, cows grazing in their lush green fields.
He goes on to narrate the memories of the son's mother - how they used to take a walk in the Clock Tower Square, the smells of fried kibbeh, walking in the field of red flowers, how the world changed slowly, how bombs destroyed their very life.
As the father is assuring his son about his safety, he himself is scared. Scared of the perils that lie ahead, scared of the strange lands and the foreign ways but mostly it is the uncertainty of the perilous journey ahead that he dreads.
The beauty of Khaled's writing
Khaled Hosseini proves that it is not the number of words that matter while telling a story. What matters instead is the impact that they create.
He tells us a beautiful short story (hardly 2-3 pages without the illustrations) but every sentence is worth a thousand words.
Sometimes it is the lack of fanciness and eloquence that marks the creativity of an author. The subtle brazenness of those words and the raw emotions that it stirs in its readers is what makes Khaled a skilful storyteller.
Those gorgeous illustrations
The illustrations create a powerful impact. They do a wonderful job of making the story come alive for the reader. The subtle shift from the beautiful green meadows and lush green fields to the bomb-ravaged countryside and the devastated cities has been done very realistically.
It appeals to you emotionally
The beauty of Sea Prayer lies in its ability to stir human emotions and make you feel uncomfortable.
A short dedication at the end of the book tells us that the author has written this book in the memory of Alan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach safety in Europe.
The book is also dedicated to thousands of others who died after Alan while attempting to make similar perilous journeys in search of safety.
Contrasting this real-world story with the story of Marwan and his father in Sea Prayer makes you want to cry. This was, sadly, my most emotional read of 2018.
The Entertainment Quotient
The book is power packed with entertainment. The beauty lies in its crisp sentences and terse narrations. The beautiful illustrations are another thing which makes the story comes alive to the reader.
In a very strict sense, it is more of a social message than a book (given the brevity of it) but even then, I suppose it's a message that should be read by one and all.
The book may feel a bit pricey but according to reports from reputed news agencies, the sale proceeds will be donated to the UN Refugee Agency. In a small way, one gets to read and donate at the same time.
Pick up the book if
l If you enjoy illustrated reads.
l If you like emotional reads especially the ones that make you cry.
l If you enjoy ultra-short reads.
l If you like books with a message.
l If you think that the UN Refugee Agency is worth donating to. Do so by purchasing this book as all the sale proceeds will be donated to the same.
Skip the book if
l If you don't like short reads (books less than 50 pages).