Sea by Heidi R. Kling is one of those books that sweeps you up and carries you away to another world when you’re not even paying attention. It’s not until much later — when you’ve practically finished the novel — that you realize how it has captured your attention.
Sea tells the story of 15-year-old Sienna, who travels with her father to work at an orphanage in Indonesia six months after the deadly 2004 tsunami. Sienna’s travels are only made more difficult by the nightmares of her mother’s death three years earlier from a plane crash over the Indian Ocean. During her journey, Sienna meets Deni — a survivor of the tsunami. Despite only knowing each other for a very short time, Sienna & Deni quickly bond — so much so, that Sienna is willing to run away with Deni when he gets word that his father may have actually survived.
Sea is one of those books that’s hard to describe. Sure, I can tell you what’ its “about” … but it’s difficult to explain what is at the heart of Sienna’s journey. What it means when you read it. How it sort of reshapes your insides and makes you feel different after finishing the last page. Reading Sea is an experience — and like all experiences, it will affect each reader differently, in unique and compelling ways.
I confess, I was a bit wary beginning Sea. Yes, I had heard wonderful things about this book — and Heidi had already been a delight chatting with via e-mail & Twitter — but I was worried it would turn preachy. I didn’t want a lecture on why post-disaster aid was so important. Yes, I get it — but working in TV news, I’ve experienced an over-exposure of global disasters and the various relief efforts. It’s exhausting. And didn’t want my reading experience to turn into more of what I’d already dealt with at work.
It turns out, I had no reason to fear.
Instead, Sea offers simply a realistic glimpse at life in Indonesia six months after the disaster. It shows us what people dealt with on a daily basis, and how they fought to cope & move on. And the reason Sea can share this with readers without feeling preachy is that it is rooted in the perspective of a 15-year-old California girl. She’s someone the reader can relate to — we can cringe along with her when she learns people use their hands to “wipe” after going to the bathroom, and when she discovers the bucket of mucky water meant for bathing. Through Kling’s writing, we can feel the heat and humidity pressing down on us. And yet, we can still follow Sienna on her journey — as she discovers what kind of person she wants to be, and sets out to be that person, no matter what.
You can experience Sea for yourself — and reading Sea is an experience — on June 10th, when it hits stores everywhere.