Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini (Illustrated Story, 2018).
This slender yet heartrending little book is an extraordinary word. Yes, it is too short to be called a graphic novel or a novella. Even as short stories go, it’s extremely brief. You might in fairness best term the text a narrative prose poem. Yet it’s a powerful, moving and deeply human look at the surviving bonds of family and desperate hope, even in the face of violence and profound danger.
Hosseini is, of course, the best-selling author of The Kite Runner and several other beautiful books. He’s also a renowned voice of humanitarianism, including serving as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency.
Aided by illustrator Dan Williams’s impressionistic art, Hosseini tells here of a father, a refugee from the unCivil War in Syria, who waits along the coastline beside his sleeping son, Marwan, hoping desperately that escape across the sea will not prove a deadly illusion–as it has for so many, crowded into unseaworthy boats and bound for a very uncertain welcome in unfamiliar lands.
The little boy has only known the carnage, confusion and brutality of war. His mother is not with them, whether dead or simply separated from them. The narrator reflects on the more normal life Marwan has missed out on and knows all too well the precarious risks still to come.
The book is dedicated to the thousands of refugees who’ve drowned over the past several years in an all-for-nothing bind search for a better life. It puts a deeply human face on the faceless multitudes and, politics aside, is a profoundly moving piece of literary and visual art from two accomplished artists.