Book Review: Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

waveAlthough I’m an avid book lover, I find it easy to get out of the habit of reading. However, I find it just as easy to get back into the habit which is what happened after I finished reading The Painted Girls, by Cathy Marie Buchanan. Hungry for more delicious literature, I started reading Wave on my Kobo. Partially because it was there and partially because I’d recently watched The Impossible in preparation for movie awards season.

Both The Impossible and Wave are centered around the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. The reason why I’m finding this topic so intriguing is because it occurred in such recent history and because I can so clearly remember it happening. I don’t remember the fallout very well (which possibly had something to do with my selfish teenage self focused more on high school prom and university applications), although I do remember my history teacher, a priest named Father T, letting us throw money at him which he tried to catch in a garbage can to give as donations.

So now I find that I’m becoming more and more curious about how this event is being remembered by history and how it will continue to be remembered 50, and even 100, years from now. Which is probably which made me read Wave and which is probably why it affected me so much.

Wave tells the heartbreaking story of Sonali Deraniyagala, a woman from Sri Lanka who lost her husband (Steve), two children (Malli and Vikram), and her parents in the tragedy. The entire family was vacationing in Yala, a national park in Sri Lanka, when the wave hit and Deraniyagala’s account of the disaster and its aftermath is unforgettable.

She weaves her tale of grief so beautifully that I felt that this book was a love letter to her family and that it served as a wonderful reminder as who they were when they were alive. She successfully gave thoughts and feelings and emotions to these people who had died, people who were formerly only part of a larger number of the dead. I loved how she wove her account of the disaster itself with her memories of the past; the book feels somewhat linear even though it is not.

I felt like the book was broken into sections where she took the time to separately memorialize her parents, her relationship with her husband and children, her family’s relationship with her own parents, her own relationship with her sons, and finally, her relationship with her husband. She made her loss feel so real to me, with the way she described her memories of her family and the experiences that they shared together.

Another thing that I loved was how honest it felt like Deraniyagala was being with her audience. People naturally want to paint a picture of themselves being the good one, flawless and often kinder than how they might otherwise be portrayed. Deraniyagala spared her readers nothing, detailing her guilt about how she ran away from the hotel without knocking on the door of her parents’ room to wake them as the wave was coming in. She tells us how she sometimes got cross or snippy with her children and Steve, showing that she is as human as everyone else.

Reading this book was a humbling experience and its brutal honesty served it well. I can imagine that others going through a difficult time might find comfort in Deraniyagala’s words and her painted tale of her own grieving process.

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