Friday, March 15, 2013

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

Title: Wave
Author: Sonali Deraniyagala
Genre: Memoir
My Rating: 5 Stars
Summary review: An intensely painful book about losing an entire family to a natural calamity and learning to survive without them.

When I got married in the summer of 2005, Sri Lanka was the destination I picked for my honeymoon. After hearing so much about the beauty of the tiny teardrop shaped country not too far from the southern part of India where I lived, I wanted to spend my first vacation with my life partner there. However, there was a small hiccup in my travel planning. The beautiful beach resorts that I had wanted to visit in the southern part of the country were closed – “affected” by the tsunami, the huge tidal wave that had flung itself on an unsuspecting population early one Sunday morning (December 26, 2004). 

And that’s what the tsunami was to me – a geographical phenomenon (a huge tidal wave), a tragic event (a quarter of a million deaths), a minor inconvenience (I really wanted to go to the Galle beach) and a topic of discussion when we were actually in the country.

 It’s crazy how the true impact of that tsunami hit me, not when I was travelling in Sri Lanka 7 months after the tragic event, but 8 years later when I was sitting in front my computer in Atlanta, GA reading an excerpt from ‘Wave’ by Sonali Deraniyagala on NPR’s first reads section, tears streaming down my face. Sonali Deraniyagala lost her parents, husband and her two sons in that tsunami when they were all vacationing on the beach in southern Sri Lanka. And this book is her story.

It has taken her 8 years to come to terms with the tragedy and actually write not only about the tragic day, but also about living with her unimaginable loss. 

At first glance, “wave” deceives you. It is a smaller-than-average sized book with a very simple cover art and an even simpler title. You don’t have to read more than the first 5 pages to realize that this book nothing like the ones you’ve read before. Sonali Deraniyagala is blunt in her writing. She doesn’t sugar coat the impact of the tragedy or the intensity of her feelings. There’s no flowery language to distract you from the pain. And rightly so.

Well, if she writes 8 years after the actual incident then this must be a story of success, right? A story of surviving adversity and overcoming the pain that is associated with the loss. At least, that’s what the naïve me thought when I started the book. I was curious to see how she’s dealt with the pain and how she’d moved on. Oh! I really was naïve. What I learnt at the end of the book is the lesson so strong that I wouldn’t forget it for the rest of my life. It is a lesson on living in the present and enjoying what I have because there might be no tomorrow… or worse, there might be a tomorrow that is not what I expect it to be at all! 

As I sit here trying to write my views on this book, I feel strangely tight lipped. It feels as though a friend has opened her very painful world to me; as though the book was a very private moment between her and me. And all that I want to do is walk up to her and give her a tight hug and thank her for sharing so private a life with me. With everyone. So we can learn.

I cannot recommend a book more strongly than I recommend this one.