Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
Non-Fiction | Memoir
Published by Knopf
Released March 5, 2013
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I’ve never had a book destroy me emotionally as much as Wave did. I can’t imagine anyone reading this and not bawling throughout it. It took me a week to get through this memoir that is under 300 pages because it was so draining and sad.
Wave is a memoir written by Sonali Deraniyagala about the loss of her entire family during the Boxing Day Tsunami in Sri Lanka on December 26, 2004. She was the sole survivor of her family that she was staying at her hotel with – she lost her two young children, her husband, and her parents, as well as a close friend.
I remember watching the news when the tsunami happened, and it was so surreal and horrifying that, at first, I thought it must be for a movie trailer or a simulation of some kind. Then it dawned on me that the news channel was showing live feeds from Sri Lanka and 13 other countries that were affected. This was really happening.
Living in the mid-Atlantic states, I’ve thankfully never lived through a major disaster, man-made or natural. I have no idea what living through such horror is like, but Sonali Deraniyagala’s Wave will show you. The book begins with the wave hitting, and then follows Sonali as she realizes that her family is gone, along with the coastline that she grew up on and loved.
As can be imagined, Deraniyagala descends into depression, and it was heart-wrenching to read her memoir when it came to the times she wished herself dead or would drink so much in the hopes that she wouldn’t wake up in the morning. We read along as she encounters everyday objects that remind her of her husband or children, and as she is distraught at strangers renting her parents’ now-empty home.
I read a lot of sad books, and I’ve dealt with depression for most of my life. I’ve also lived through the premature death of my mother. None of it prepared me for a memoir like this. There was so much pain in Deraniyagala’s words that at times I considered DNF-ing the book because it was too hard. In the end, I decided to finish the book, taking days in between reading it when I needed to recover.
More than 230,000 people died in 14 countries due to this earthquake and tsunami. This book is a way to remember that horrific event all these years later. As difficult as it is to read, I believe that it is a book that should be read, if only to remember all those people who died suddenly as a wall of water overtook everything it encountered.