Sea Prayer, by Khaled Hosseini, 2017, 2018

Beautiful, poignant short illustrated book about Syrian refugee father and son fleeing Syria by boat.

They lost their wife and mother in the bombing in Syria and father and son are escaping Syria and waiting on the shore for the boat:

Your mother is here tonight, Marwan, with us, on this cold and moonlit beach, among the crying babies and the women worrying in tongues we don’t speak. Afghans and Somalis and Iraqis and Eritreans and Syrians. All of us impatient for sunrise, all of us in dread of it. All of us in search of home.

Father’s prayer:

Pray God steers the vessel true, when the shores slip out of eyeshot and we are a flyspeck in the heaving waters, pitching and tilting, easily swallowed. Because you, you are precious cargo, Marwan, the most precious there ever was. I pray the sea knows this. Inshallah.

The book starts with the father reminiscing about his grandma and grandpa’s home in the country with grandma banging pots and pans in the kitchen and animals and fields and flowers in the countryside. And the city of Homs with its bustling marketplaces. And then the bombs started falling and darkness entered the world.

First came the protests. Then the siege.The skies spitting bombs. Starvation. Burials.These are the things you know.You know a bomb crater can be made into a swimming hole. You have learned that dark blood is better news than bright. You have learned that mothers and sisters and classmates can be found in narrow gaps between concrete, bricks, and exposed beams, little patches of sunlit skin shining in the dark.

The illustrations by Dan Williams are beautiful and haunting. They go from lovely, whimsical, light and airy and colorful to dark and gray and black.

Last page:

Sea Prayer was inspired by the story of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach safety in Europe in 2015. In the year after Alan’s death, 4,176 others died or went missing attempting that same journey.

Hosseini is donating proceeds from this book to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and to The Khaled Hosseini Foundation to help fund life-saving relief efforts around the globe.