Wave (Deraniyagala)

Sonali Deraniyagala, 2013
Knopf Doubleday
240 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780307962690

On 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 that she miraculously survived.

In this brave and searingly frank memoir, she describes those first horrifying moments and her long journey since: how she struggled through the first months following the tragedy, furiously clenched against a reality that she cannot face and cannot deny.

Over the ensuing years, we follow Sonali as she emerges reluctantly, slowly allowing her memory to take her back through the rich and joyous life she mourns—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 Sonali must learn the difficult balance between the almost unbearable reminders of her loss and the need to keep her family, somehow, still alive within her. Wave is an engrossing, unsentimental, beautifully poised account of tragedy, survival, and healing. (Adapted from the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Colombo, Sri Lanka
Education—B.B., Cambridge Univeristy; Ph.D., Oxford
Currently—lives in New York City and London

Sonali Deraniyagala teaches in the Department of Economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.  She is currently a visiting research scholar at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, New York, working on issues of economic development, including post-disaster recovery. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
Wave is a granular, tactile working through of grief, regret and survivor's guilt. It maintains a tight focus. Don't arrive here looking for statistics and a journalistic overview of the tsunami…It's a somber volume that suggests that Julian Barnes was right about grief, when he wrote in Flaubert's Parrot that you don't emerge from it cleanly, as if from a tunnel into sunshine.... Stories of grief, like stories of love, are of permanent literary interest when done well. I'm not convinced that Ms. Deraniyagala is a great writer…but a form of greatness reverberates from her simple and supple prose here.
Dwight Garner - New York Times

It is a meditation through grief and a meditation on grief. It is courageous, truthful and, above all, generous. In the first place, it dares to tell an impossibly difficult story. Deraniyagala gives a bravely detailed account of shock, of the hunger and anger of early grief, of its consuming selfishness, its fearful pain. She gives us a powerful exposition of the relationship between grief and shame, in her case so extreme she doubts whether she could have been her children’s mother if it were possible for her to survive them. Instead of assuming we could never understand, she writes a book that trusts we will.
Sunila Galappatti - Toronto Globe and Mail

An indelible and unique story of loss and resolution written with breathtaking refinement and courage.... In rinsed-clear language, Deraniyagala describes her ordeal, surreal rescue, and deep shock, attaining a Didionesque clarity and power. We hold tight to every exquisite sentence as, with astounding candor and precision, she tracks subsequent waves of grief.... But here, too, are sustaining tides of memories that enable her to vividly, even joyfully, portray her loved ones.

The Indian Ocean tsunami that broke loose on December 26, 2004, killed...230,000 people, including Deraniyagala's parents, husband, and two young sons. And though she opens by taking us straight into the wave, 30 feet high and rushing toward Sri Lanka at 25 miles an hour, her book is ultimately an account of her coping with her grief while also celebrating the memories of those she loved. As she ranges over her childhood in Colombo, meeting her English husband at Cambridge, and the birth of her children, we learn how she managed to keep these wrenching memories, and hence her family, with her.
Library Journal

(Starred review.) A devastating but ultimately redemptive memoir by a survivor of the 2004 Sri Lankan tsunami, who must come to terms with the deaths of her husband, her young sons and her parents from the natural disaster that somehow spared her. Deraniyagala is an economist, and her matter-of-fact account is all the more powerful for its lack of literary flourish, though the craft and control reflect an exceptional literary command. Every word in these short, declarative sentences appears to have been chosen with great care, as if to sentimentalize the experience or magnify the horror (as if that were possible) would be a betrayal of all she has lost..... Excellent. Reading her account proves almost as cathartic as writing it must have been.
Kirkus Reviews

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