Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Killing Sea

The Killing Sea

Richard Lewis
For ages 12 to and up
Simon and Schuster, 2006   ISBN: 978-1416911654

Sarah is thoroughly disgruntled with this so-called Christmas vacation which she is taking with her parents and her brother. Instead of being able to enjoy the usual comfortable yuletide traditions, Sarah is waiting in the sweltering Indonesian heat while a local mechanic is repairing the engine of the boat which they have been sailing around in for days. She is in such a bad mood that she does not even notice the mechanic’s son looking at her, admiring the startling blue of her eyes.

Soon enough the mechanic’s son, Ruslan, gets back into his routine and Sarah and her family sail away. They are not far from a small island when they feel an earthquake. Not long afterwards they realize that the sea is being sucked away. What follows is a desperate scramble to get the island before the sea comes back and in the rush Sarah’s father’s leg is broken. His wife stays to help him hobble along and she insists that Sarah must run as fast as she can for the small island taking Peter with her.

An enormous wave comes crashing down and Sarah and Peter only just make it to safety. When the water recedes Sarah discovers that her mother was drowned by the tsunami wave. There is no sign of her father. She decides that her only hope is to try to go back to the main island to get help. Peter is starting to get ill and he needs medical attention. Perhaps Sarah can find someone to send out a search party to look for her father.

After getting back to the main island of Sumatra, Sarah runs into Ruslan who is looking for his father. Ruslan’s English is good and Sarah asks him to help her get to a town where she can get Peter the help he needs. Realizing that Sarah would be lost without his help, Ruslan agrees to take her to a nearby town and an incredible shared journey begins.

This is an often heartbreaking portrait of what it was like to experience the 2004 Asian Tsunami. The two main characters, Sarah and Ruslan, are easy to identify with and readers will be amazed to see how people of all kinds are able to overcome their differences in time of trouble. The author not only describes the terrible events of those days in late December but he also helps his readers see how the already appalling situation was made worse because of the sectarian problems which were rife in that part of the world. Ruslan is alternately taken into custody by both government and rebel forces and he has to escape from both.

As they read the last pages of this story readers are left not just with a feeling of great loss, but they will also experience a feeling a hope. With people like Ruslan to help, we can be hopeful that the people of this region will be able to recover from this terrible calamity.