Wave by Sonali DeraniyagalaWave by Sonali Deraniyagala


bySonali Deraniyagala

Hardcover | March 5, 2013

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 A brave, intimate, beautifully crafted memoir by a survivor of the tsunami that struck the Sri Lankan coast in 2004 and took her entire family.

On December 26, Boxing Day, Sonali Deraniyagala, her English husband, her parents, her two young sons, and a close friend were ending Christmas vacation at the seaside resort of Yala on the south coast of Sri Lanka when a wave suddenly overtook them. She was only to learn later that this was a tsunami that devastated coastlines through Southeast Asia. When the water began to encroach closer to their hotel, they began to run, but in an instant, water engulfed them, Sonali was separated from her family, and all was lost. Sonali Deraniyagala has written an extraordinarily honest, utterly engrossing account of the surreal tragedy of a devastating event that all at once ended her life as she knew it and her journey since in search of understanding and redemption. It is also a remarkable portrait of a young family's life and what came before, with all the small moments and larger dreams that suddenly and irrevocably ended.

SONALI DERANIYAGALA teaches in the Department of Economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. She is currently a visiting research scholar at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Columbia University, New York, working on aspects of post-disaster economic recovery. The author li...
Title:WaveFormat:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 8.26 × 5.23 × 0.98 inPublished:March 5, 2013Publisher:McClelland & StewartLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:077102536X

ISBN - 13:9780771025365

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Best Books of 2013


Rated 4 out of 5 by from Heartbreaking & brave Wow this was so sad, it's amazing how Sonali finds the strength to carry on after what that Tsunami took from her, very emotional read.
Date published: 2017-01-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Life gone Bad I read this book for my Toastmaster book club. The tsunami of Boxing Day (Dec 26), 2004, was one of the worst natural disasters in our lifetimes. Over 250,000 people died that day. It affected millions more. There are millions of stories from that day. The survivors had tough time. This book is a story of one of those survivors. The author and her family were caught in that tsunami while they were visiting relatives in Sri Lanka. Of her family consisting of her, her husband, her two sons and two parents, she is the only one to survive. For the next several years she struggles with the memories of that day and her missing family. This is preventing her from moving forward. Everyone has a story to tell. The telling of this story was to help someone get through the most traumatic event a person can face. The loss of an entire family. I thought the book was okay. I was expecting a more motivational book about how she overcame her depressiona and was able to move. I am not saying that the author's story should not be heard, I was just expecting more. The book was about 130 pages on my e-reader.
Date published: 2014-02-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from heartrending To lose someone close to you takes at least two years to recover from.I had some first hand experience having lost a son to crib death at only one month old.This is no where near the loss experienced by Sonali Deraniyagala.To be on at vacation in a place you had many happy experiences before with your husband, sons and parents and have your happiness snatched away by a natural disaster is unbelievable.She tells her story with a wonderful depth of details.She is open about her anger,her loss,her blaming herself and the way in which she acts out against the family renting her family home,alcohol,taking to her bed etc,She will remember her family forever and so will you for having read her remarkable story!
Date published: 2013-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An amazing tale Sonali Deraniyagala’s memoir of how she lost her entire family in the tsunami of 2004 is raw, honest, heartfelt, heartbreaking, harrowing, sad, uplifting, horrifying, poetic, searing and, ultimately, life affirming. It’s an amazing tale of loss of hope and life, or something like it, rediscovered. Published in 2013, Wave does not waste time in its description of the horrifyingly quick and complete destruction wrought by the giant wave as it swept over the resort that her family stayed at in Yala, on the south coast of Sri Lanka. The water swallowed up her husband Steve, their young boys Vik and Malli and her parents. It nearly cost her life too as the jeep she and her family were riding in to escape the wave was quickly drowned in water and overturned. Her parents never even made it that far – they were in their hotel room when the wave came and she and her family starting running. She remained the sole survivor of the family, “powerless, a plastic bag in a gale.” If you want to know what it’s like to survive hell, read Sonali Deraniyagala’s memoir. Her prose is simple, spare and delivered in brutishly short and direct sentences in its description of the wave and the “knocked-down world” that resembled “the end of time.” Her style shifts subtly after that and does not read as staccato and abrupt. It’s in keeping with her acceptance of her grim reality and ability to take in the world again, in all its beauty as well as tragedies (such as the Japan tsunami which followed). The first hint of her climb out of darkness and into light comes on page 59 when she visits Colombo, her parent’s hometown where she grew up, with a friend. They walk on a beach and she spies some turtles. “I crawled quietly up to the turtle, peered into the pit, held an egg in my palm. It was warm. I thought this was magical.” Slowly, surely, over the years, she starts to patch her life together after bouts of depression, drinking, thoughts of suicide and rage. On a trip back to Yala, she finds a laminated report that her husband, an economist like her, wrote in 2003. It’s a routine work assignment published in London, England, where the family lived, but it’s a treasure. Later, she finds one of Vik’s shirts – another treasure. But it will be a long time before she overcomes her sole survivor’s guilt and pain of losing so much so fast. “Why else did we have to be right there just when the wave hit?” she asks. “Why else have I become this shocking story, this wild statistical outlier?” Nature seems to offer the greatest solace and sense of wonder again. Like the turtles she wrote about earlier, Deraniyagala recalls an incident from years ago when she and Steve watched a herd of elephants in Yala’s national park. Here, her prose is simple, evocative and beautifully poetic – it’s no wonder Michael Ondaatje, who is listed among her acknowledgements, is such a fan. “We’d park on a side to let them pass, but sometimes they’d tire of us and line up in front of our flimsy red van, coiling trunks, kicking dust, thundering their throats, readying to charge.” She steps further back into the light when she recalls stories of whales and her experience riding in a boat in the midst of the big aquatic beasts. Vik was always “struck by the wonder of blue whales,” she writes. “He grappled with their immensity, as long as three buses, tongue as heavy as an elephant, heart the size of a car, how can that be? He was awed by their ancientness and ancestry.” Her own experience among the whales and her “want for wild wonder” is beautiful. “It’s hard to comprehend a creature of such unearthly dimensions,” Deraniyagala writes. “The two whales rotate around our boat, they move with effortless grace, seeming to have some powerful purpose. The sight of them is staggering, the sensation sacred. I am happy to be here, thankful even.” She also writes about sipping coffee on a bench at St. Luke’s Garden in New York where she is a visiting research scholar at Colombia University. Again, her poetry is sublime in describing the “early summer light froths on the hydrangeas and foxgloves. Such an English garden, this. I notice the whiff of a dead insect on my fingers, one of those tiny mites that skid the air and become a smudge on your hand as you wave it away. This transports me instantly to our garden in London which teems with these midges in warmer months.” Deraniyagala describes living in New York as a sort of second life, set apart from her self. Strangers and acquaintances ask about her family and she doesn’t divulge details. She feels, she writes, as though she’s in a “witness protection scheme.” But she eventually breaks through that barrier and comes to the realization that she “can only stay steady as I traverse this world that’s empty of my family when I admit the reality of them, and me. “For I am without them, as much as I am on my own.” It’s the epiphany that comes after surfacing from the wave.
Date published: 2013-07-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A testimony to loss and undying love As I’m just finishing this book now, I have to admit that it is not what I thought it was going to be at first... and yet I am not disappointed. Unlike the happy-ending “The Impossible”, Sonali Deraniyagala’s heartbreaking memoir is a poignant account of the darkest aspect of this natural disaster. It is a haunting chronicle of loss as the author becomes parent less, childless and husband less in an instant. The author explores, the depths of her grief at having lost everyone she hold dear and every person that help define her as an individual, and also the depths of her guilt at having survived against all odds while they didn't. This memoir is also a touching tribute to the happiness those she lost brought her along the years she lived among them. It is a testimony of her undying love for her family as she reminisces the defining moments of her life that are associated to either her husband, her boys or her parents. A heartfelt chronicle written by a courageous woman who, event seven years after the event, keeps the memories of her loved ones alive and will continue to do so. For more on this book and others, visit my blog at : ladybugandotherbookworms.blogspot.com
Date published: 2013-03-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not What I Expected! Story Description: McClelland & Stewart|March 5, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-7710-2536-5 A brave, intimate, beautifully crafted memoir by a survivor of the tsunami that struck the Sri Lankan coast in 2004 and took her entire family. On December 26, Boxing Day, Sonali Deraniyagala, her English husband, her parents, her two young sons, and a close friend were ending Christmas vacation at the seaside resort of Yala on the south coast of Sri Lanka when a wave suddenly overtook them. She was only to learn later that this a tsunami that devastated coastlines through Southeast Asia. When the water began to encroach closer to their hotel, they began t run, but in an instant water engulfed them. sonali was separated from her family, and all was lost. Sonali Deraniyagala has written an extraordinarily honest, utterly engrossing account of the surreal tragedy of a devastating event that all at once ended her life as she it and her journey since in search of understanding and redemption. It is also a remarkable portrait of a young family’s life and what came before, with all the small moments and larger dreams that suddenly and irrevocably ended. My Review: I’m finding it a bit difficult to write this review as on the one hand the story itself was a huge letdown and not at all what I expected for all the hype I’d heard. On the other hand, it was an amazing novel of the telling of immense grief Sonali went through in coping to learn to live without her entire family. I expected the story to be more of a telling of not only her own family and the tragedy she faced in losing everyone but also I expected some other stories of other people she met along with way and what their stories entailed in this unbelievably sad day in the life of so, so many people. I found the book to be quite repetitive in a lot of places and kept waiting for something “new” which never really materialized. It is said that some 226,000 people lost their lives that day and that is a staggering number for sure. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose my husband, my children, my parents, and my friends all within the blink of an eye and how finding your way back from that would feel like. Survivor’s guilt for sure enters into this tragedy and one wonders how anyone could have survived what Sonali did that particular day. However, I just felt the story was lacking ‘something’, I expected more substance and although I understand it is a “memoir”, I still expected to hear more details, figures, numbers, and stories of other people she encountered on her journey to redemption and acceptance. I just felt the book didn’t live up to the hype and I’ve not totally convinced myself that I would bother recommending this to other people, at least not without a warning that it wasn’t what I had expected from this much talked about memoir.
Date published: 2013-03-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Poignantly chaotic The chaos of losing ones loved ones in a split second is the backbone of a novel that attempts to come to terms with the 2004 tsunami, and Deraniyagala's heartbreaking reality of life as a mother with no children. Deraniyagala vividly recounts the years immediately following the tsunami in all their chaotic glory - the anger, fear, grief, loneliness and unwillingness to feel joy, that comes when a loved one leaves us. Written in a sort of stream-of-consciousness style, the story comes together in a way that suggest the author is reliving the experience as she is writing. Worthy of the Indigo spotlight, this novel tugs at your heartstrings as you are taken on a journey of grief, destruction, discovery and ultimately, acceptance.
Date published: 2013-01-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A wave goodbye Everyone was affected by the 2004 tsunami in one small way or another, but almost definitely nothing close to how it affected Sonali Deraniyagala. She survived the catastrophe, but lost her two sons, her husband, and her parents. The life she had and wanted to hold on to was wiped clean. "Wave" is her account of the tragedy that had befallen on her and her loved ones, and with dealing with the void in her life once the waves subsided. Sonali wastes no time in going straight to when the tsunami first hits Yala, Sri Lanka, where her family was spending their Christmas holiday. Within the first few pages, her family is swept and dispersed by the wave, right before they were due to leave Yala, without a proper farewell. To lose them in such fashion is especially tough because of how sudden and unexpected it came about, and this lack of a closure was what led Sonali to spiral out of control in the early months and years after the tsunami. She writes further of her heartaches, her difficulties, her lowest points, her reminiscing the past, in the 8 years since that fateful day. The subject matter is heavy-hearted and solemn, and it bears down on the reader with the knowing fact that she will never see or hear her loved ones again, or that she has and will not see her kids grow up to the people they would have been. In the beginning, her sentences were terse and short, interspersed with lots of rhetorical questions that I, unfortunately, felt make it hard to understand her flow of thoughts. But the content of it makes it so hard to pass off and I could only keep reading about the events that unfold. As it goes beyond the tsunami, Sonali better articulates herself. I realized her words in the beginning only reflected the sadness, the pain, and the confusion, of having to recount the experience without wanting to dwell on it too long because of how tremendously hard it is. The rhetorics sprouted from the whys and the what ifs. "Wave" then becomes a more intimate read in the second half of the book as she gains more semblances to her own self, never returning to that past self, because, how could she? She writes freely of memories of the ones she lost jolted back to her by the simplest of things, and of how she tried evading her past for as long as she could but comes to a few important realizations of her own. I too came to a realization. "Wave" isn't a memoir by Sonali Deraniyagala about her life after the tsunami, it's a very personal tribute in memory of her sons, her husband, and her parents, all of whom she devotes time and space in the book memorializing. It was probably cathartic for her to write and think of them more outwardly, instead of freezing her emotions. It likely helped her more in coming to terms with her loss and her grief, and in emerging stronger with them in her heart and mind. She did herself a favour in sharing them through "Wave," and in the process, does us a favour.
Date published: 2013-01-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Heartbreaking There really aren't any words that will do justice to the experience of reading this book. Deraniyagala shows how unique the experience of grieving is for each person - this book is written eight years after the tsunami in Sri Lanka that tragically took away her family, a large amount of time compared to what seems to be the trend in today's culture of sharing personal experiences on television in front of the world what seems like immediately after a traumatic event. I didn't cry while reading this book, but I could not lift the heavy feeling from my chest as I moved through each chapter. A truly heartbreaking read.
Date published: 2013-01-16

Editorial Reviews

“This is the most powerful and haunting book I’ve read in years…. In A Whaler’s Dictionary there’s the line, ‘Ishmael’s impossible task is to write about a world that falls outside the realm of experience.’ And what Sonali Deraniyagala has done, in this beautifully written book, is to similarly give us a portrait of an event and its after-effects that we have never experienced or witnessed. At the same time she has brought back to life in this stunning memoir all those she lost, so much so that we will never forget them or their lives.” —Michael Ondaatje  “An amazing, beautiful book.” —Joan Didion“Wave, is a memoir for the ages – one of the saddest stories a human being could ever tell, told brilliantly, with devastating insight into the heart of love and death…. An eloquent monument to the deep human necessity of storytelling.” —John Barber, Globe and Mail"This is possibly the most moving book I have ever read about grief, but it is also a very, very fine book about love. . . . While in Wave love reveals itself by the bleak intensity of the pain of absolute, irreplaceable loss, it is in the end a love story, and a book about the importance of love.” —The Guardian (U.K.) “Wave contains solemn and essential truths. . . . We are in some way fortified for our own inevitable, if lesser, struggles. . . . In accurately describing her family’s life . . . she rescues [them] from uncaring, careless fate.  Losing them plunged her into darkness.  Writing about what happens brings them into the light. . . .” —Teju Cole, newyorker.com“Stories of grief, like stories of love, are of permanent literary interest when done well . . . A form of greatness reverberates from Deraniyagala’s simple and supple prose.” — New York Times“Like Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking, Wave captures the elusive shape-shifting nature of grief.” — Newsday “A bracing and ruthlessly self-confrontational memoir.” —Boston Globe “It’s almost inconceivable that a memoir of such exquisite beauty could arise from an event as tragically horrific as the Asian tsunami of 2004.  But Sonali Deraniyagala has created exactly that. . . . Both jaggedly raw and beautifully crafted at the same time.  Above all, it speaks to the power of the human spirit to survive, to love, to remember.  It reminds us that these often mundane lives of ours and our families' must be cherished, because we never know when an extraordinary event may come along to change it all.” — Toronto Star “[A] spare, radiant book. . . . The extremity of Deraniyagala’s story seizes the attention, but it’s the beauty of how she expresses it that makes it indelible. . . . It’s one of art’s mysterious ironies that a book created out of loss make the lost ones live for the first time in the minds of complete strangers. —Salon.com “Few of us can imagine recovering from such a catastrophic loss.  Fewer still would be inclined to share it.  Yet there is something in Deraniyagala's unsentimental, unadorned account of the event and the long aftermath that draws us into her grief and madness, holding us spellbound.  Resisting her conversational embrace would be futile, one inhuman tragedy compounded by another.  We read on, afraid to leave her so desperately alone.  We lose ourselves willingly in what is perhaps the saddest story that has ever been told.” — Hamilton Spectator “Extraordinary. . . . I didn't feel as if was going to cry while reading Wave.  I felt as if my heart might stop. . . . She has fearlessly delivered on memoir's greatest promise: to tell it like it is, no matter the cost.  The result is an unforgettable book that isn't only as unsparing as they come, but also defiantly flooded with light.”   —Cheryl Strayed, New York Times Book Review “Out of unimaginable loss comes an unimaginably powerful book. Wave is unflinching as it charts the depths of grief, but it’s also, miraculously, a beautifully detailed meditation on the essence of happiness. I came away from this stunning book with a new appreciation of life’s daily gifts. I urge you to read Wave. You will not be the same person after you’ve finished.” —Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club"In rinsed-clear language, she describes her ordeal, surreal rescue and deep shock, attaining a Didionesque clarity and power.  We hold tight to every exquisite sentence. . . . An indelible and unique story of loss and resolution written with breathtaking refinement and courage." —Booklist “Wave is a haunting chronicle of love and horrifying loss. The heartfelt writing manages to render the absence of the loved ones – the void, and the pain of it – in such a beautiful way that what was lost emerges as a new life form, one whose flesh and sinew are memory, sorrow, and undying love.”  —Abraham Verghese, bestselling author of Cutting for Stone"A devastating but ultimately redemptive memoir.... Deraniyagala's 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 (Starred Review)  “Rarely are we given a story of such narrative force and poetic simplicity . . . Being spared, Deraniyagala seems doomed to spare herself nothing. Wave is a beautiful offering to readers. Bravissima.” —Mary Karr"Unmitigatingly honest, immeasurably potent. . . . This massively courageous, tenaciously unsentimental chronicle of unthinkable loss and incremental recovery explodes -- and then expands -- our notion of what love really means."—MORE Magazine