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One of The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of the YearOn the morning of December 26 2004 on the southern coast of Sri Lanka Sonali Deraniyagala lost her parents her husband and her two young sons in the tsunami she miraculously survived In this brave and searingly frank memoir she describes those first horrifying moments and her long journey since She has written an engrossing unsentimental beautifully poised account as she struggles through the first months following the tragedy furiously clenched against a reality that she cannot face and cannot deny; and then over the ensuing years as she emerges reluctantly slowly allowing her memory to take her back through the rich and joyous life she’s mourning from her family’s home in London to the birth of her children to the year she met her English husband at Cambridge to her childhood in Colombo; all the while learning the difficult balance between the almost unbearable reminders of her loss and the need to keep her family somehow still alive within her


10 thoughts on “Wave

  1. says:

    Not a book for me Wave is compelling and extremely well written but is just page after page of pain The pain and depression are relentless and I don't understand the appeal of going to a grey formless universe of awfulness and just sitting there while the anguish seeps into your skin I have no children and I can't imagine the masochism it would take to read this if I did But there's another thing I'm at risk of being seen as a jerk totally lacking in compassion but here goes There's a sense I get not from Deraniyagala herself but from readers of this and from the initial publicity that her tragedy is special tragic worthy of a memoir because it was the result of a tsunami If the same loss was experienced because of a car accident something that happens to families every day the resulting book wouldn't be nearly as pardon the word I use it only as a marketing term sexy This gave me a feeling of unease as I read itBut if you like misery lit this is it for you The apotheosis of grief pain and guilt I've got to go read a Terry Pratchett to cheer myself up


  2. says:

    I find the negative reviews on here interesting Many of them want resolution and hope I think one of the messages of this memoir is that life goes on but there is never really a resolution to that level of grief Grief changes shape and evolves but it marches forward One doesn't just pick herself up by her bootstraps and start a new life full of hope perhaps some do but not most She has had enough time to process some of her pain but in some ways she still seems a bit confused and numb although she is allowing herself to dive into her memories which perhaps make her feel pain The pain is allowing her to come out of her stupor Some say her memories are boring Really the only reason I gave it a four out of five was for this reason; however I also realize that living in her previous life is one of her coping mechanisms I also realized I would likely do the same thing Relive all those little moments I take for granted now the universal theme Thorten Wilder explored in Our Town and countless other writers have weighed in on as well Some dislike how they didn't learn a lot about the tsunami or other survivors This is a personal memoir If you want that find another book or Google it my friend


  3. says:

    It's hard to make a negative comment about this book without coming across as hard hearted but here goes I found it really hard to empathise with the author as she came across as cold selfish and spoilt It's impossible to know how one would react in a situation as tragic as this but I would hope that most people wouldn't be as callous as she Even before she knew her family was dead her attitude towards everyone around her was cruel including a boy in tears asking her if his parents were dead and a family friend who asked for help at the hospital There is very little in the book about the help and support she must have got from family and her friends There is absolutely no acknowledgement of the thousands of others who suffered and most of whom wouldn't have had the financial means to grieve as she did I know this is a personal memoir and she has written honestly about how she felt But there is no journey here of personal growth or of anything that someone else who is grieving could read and take something away from I expected her to reflect on the anger and resentment she felt towards others at the start and some sign that she grew from there But I didn't see that I think this book relies entirely on the event a famous natural disaster and doesn't offer readers anything than a diary entry type record of what happened


  4. says:

    In December 2004 Sonali Deraniyagala and her family were home for Christmas When the tsunami hit Sri Lanka they all caught in the wave She survived her parents her husband and their childrenHer book tells of her painful progress to recovery from her losses Having personally gotten stuck a time or two in anger and denial with my own lesser losses I appreciated her candor I'm glad that I read the book


  5. says:

    It took me a long time to finish this book because there were times when I could not read the next page The loss that Sonali suffered was so crushing that I often was at a loss to comprehend it I had to take time to find a frame of reference before I could read further After I finished I realized that she had found that still place in her heart where a wave of remembrance could gently soothe her as she bravely faced life without her loved ones If you know someone facing a terminal illness I can think of no better gift you could give them than this book


  6. says:

    What is most striking to me about this memoir of the tsunami which hit Sri Lanka December 26 2004 is the clarity with which Deraniyagala shares her sense of dislocation devastation and despair following the deaths of her entire family She recalls rising water in words that take one’s breath and then her stunned silence and blank lack of emotion when she describes the tsunami’s aftermath when she alone of her family remained covered in black mud and clinging to a treeWhat I never knew and was grateful to Deraniyagala for sharing was how we humans react to the massive insult of a natural disaster Aid workers must have come across this kind of shock in their work with victims of earthuakes and floods but I never knew had never experienced such a thing I am in awe that Deraniyagala could relate her pain to us despite what it must have cost her She didn’t have to do it I hope it helpsThe ravaging sense of guilt and crippling loss of self worth as she scrabbled in the remains of her life felt lacerating Her unflinching honesty in describing her loss of control and the pain of her survival when all others died ripped from her arms is excruciating Her parents had also died in the wave so apart from a brother and extended family she had nothing to anchor her to her life as a mother wife and daughterIt took six years before she could bear to remember the love she had for her children and her husband and to tell us how they played or what they liked to eat She becomes joyous then in recalling the boys at school their favorite subjects or how she met her husband and how they first traveled to Sri Lanka to stay in her parents’ house The precision clarity and elouence of her memory and her language honors them and enshrines her love for them It is just as revealing to discover that people can actually find a way forward even in the face of such heart rending grief The grass grows back; the spirit renews It seems impossible but it is still true Deraniyagala reminds us that finding one’s way back to oneself through an overwhelming and lasting grief is not in fact to forgetbut to remember When Sonali remembers and can speak the truth she finds joy in the remembering and in who she was with the people she loved She can piece back together who she is by remembering who she was The beauty of her memories and the imaginings of her sons—Vikram would be fourteen—makes me celebrate her bravery The reading of this memoir by Hannah Curtis is terrific To say the material is difficult is understatement but Curtis pulls it off


  7. says:

    Suddenly losing your parents your husband and your two little sons and barely surviving a devastating tsunami yourself A wave that came for them on the morning of December 26 2004 when the children were playing with their Christmas presents in a hotel room in Yala Sri Lanka Such a puny life Starved of their loveliness I feel shrunken Diminished and faded without their sustenance their beauty their smiles Nothing like how I was that day before the waveThe grief is unfathomable the pain outlandish Each night I dreamed of fleeing of running from something some nights it was water some nights it was churning mud other nights I didn’t know what In these dreams always one of them died Then I’d wake to face my real nightmareShe wrote this intimate cathartic book for herself not for us And that is a good thing There are red pen marks rising up a wall in our living room where Steve and I would measure the boys’ heights I see those inexact suiggles and instantly lean right back into who I was I know it was me who settled those suabbles about who had grown the most I know it was me who scolded Malli for standing on tiptoe to be taller his heels right up on those slightly peeling skirting boards on that wall And yes it was me who’d tell Vik that it was silly to drink half a pint of milk just before I measured him—you won’t get instantly taller now will you? And without thinking I lightly kiss those red Biro marks just as I would the tops of their heads Then I slump to the floor with my back against that wall


  8. says:

    I study and teach trauma and so I'm naturally drawn to trauma memoirs a genre I know well I'm also a mom and daughter and this story of grief and colossal loss drew me in from the first page Unimaginable to lose one's children husband and parents in one massive event Deraniyagala does an amazing job of capturing the confusion she felt post catastrophe the sense of not being in her life without her loved ones there to anchor her Moreover her self destruction drinking suicidal thoughts make perfect sense and seem uite rational given the circumstancesTold over a period of years in which she increasingly comes to a place of remembrance rather than shocked raw grief the book is beautifully written There is real emotion here but also craft The early scenes in which her family is swept away in the wave and she clings to existence are breathtaking literally Later passages describing her children's clothes toys the empty house; the garden and the birds; the places she used to go with them these are all heartbreakingUltimately this is a story about how a life gets rebuilt when everything that made it a life the people the relationships the activities are gone Deraniyagala has to piece herself back together and she does so slowly painfully and not always gracefully I loved her honesty when she wondered why others were alive when she had lost so much; her concern that she was experiencing a hierarchy of grief by mourning her children and husband than her parents In her grief she reevaluates the contours of selfI did find myself tripping occasionally on the narrative when Deraniyagala's class status inserted itself into the story There were references to nannies drivers and personal security guards in Sri Lanka; there is much cross continent travel vacations on the coast a life of at least some ease and social lubrication These references to privilege in no way undercut the author's obvious and profound grief nor her lovely prose but I did wonder sociologically about the other thousands upon thousands of victims of the tsunami including those without homes in London well placed friends economic resources and the cushioning of class that at least to some degree mediates trauma and loss


  9. says:

    As an empath and a highly sensitive person I made a very poor decision in opting to listen to this one I have always stayed away from it expecting it to be impossibly heart rending I only made it halfway and I just can't continue To think that her story is just one of so many My heart hurts


  10. says:

    This is a powerful story about a woman who lost her husband children and parents in the 2004 tsunami Sonali and her family were vacationing in Sri Lanka when the wave hit and her world fell apart Sonali managed to survive by clinging to a tree branch but the rest of her family was killed Wave is a grief memoir with Sonali trying to adjust to a new life of being alone She goes through a desperate period of wanting to kill herself; she drinks too much alcohol and barely leaves her room Sonali obsesses over the memories of her husband and children she doesn't want to forget anything Her way of adapting is to keep them alive in her mind I can only recover myself when I keep them near If I distance myself from them and their absence I am fractured I am left feeling I’ve blundered into a stranger’s lifeThe writing is beautiful and haunting and it helped to personalize the tragedy This isn't the kind of memoir in which the reader feels a triumph at the end finding comfort because someone has survived and moved on but just relief that Sonali survived at all