This is no fantasy, though. Beyond that initial gift of survival, El Akkad provides only a sliver of hope. The sweet Syrian boy who awakens on the beach is 9-year-old Amir. Before washing up on shore, Amir and his family flee their bombed-out village to reach Damascus, where their own countrymen accuse them of fabricating violence. Amir learns early that to be homeless is to be considered both pathetic and suspect. And El Akkad makes painfully clear that in addition to everything else they carry, refugees must also bear the blame for their needs, their numbers, their very existence. They live lives of interminable waiting and incremental change.