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Review: ‘Wave’ by Sonali Deraniyagala

Review: ‘Wave’ by Sonali Deraniyagala post image

Title: Wave
Author: Sonali Deraniyagala
Genre: Memoir
Year: 2013
Publisher: Vintage
Acquired: Bought
Rating: ★★★★★

Review: On December 26, 2004, Sonali Deraniyagala and her family – her husband, her two sons and her parents – were vacationing at a beach resort in Sri Lanka. Lazing around their hotel room the day after Christmas, Sonali noticed the white curl of a wave, much closer than normal, out on the beach. As water kept moving closer, Sonali and her husband, Steve, grabbed their boys, Vik and Malli, and started to run. Outside the hotel, they jumped in the back of a jeep. Minutes later the jeep was pushed over, separating Sonali from her husband and young sons forever.

Wave is, as you might expect, a devastating story. Deraniyagala’s grief is palpable on every page even as it morphs over time. Although Steve, Vik and Malli are just three people among the more than the nearly 228,000 victims of the tsunami, Deraniyagala writes about them with such specificity and love that they come into a sharp focus.

Wave is not as much of a meditation on grief as, say, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Deraniyagala does write about her grieving process – her craving to end her own life, her drinking problem, her illogical harassment of the people who moved into her parent’s home – but spends more time memorializing the family she lost inexplicably in a single instant than analyzing her own feelings.

This book is not an easy read. Deraniyagala’s prose is clear and simple, but her emotions reach out from every page. She never gives an easy conclusion – it’s been five years, I’m fine now! – but does show how her grief has evolved in the seven years after the tsunami, allowing her to build a life while holding deeply to the life that was taken away. I thought this book was beautiful.

Other Reviews: Sorry Television | The Boston Bibliophile |

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  • bermudaonion (Kathy) March 6, 2014, 8:24 am

    I love books that are full of emotion like that but I think I’ll have to be in the right mood to read this one.

  • Liz March 6, 2014, 3:12 pm

    This book has stuck with me for months, the grief was devastating to read but I’m glad I did. I recommended it to a friend who had another friend that lost three children in a horrific crime. It helped her get some sense of what her friend was feeling, and how to best help her.

  • Trisha March 6, 2014, 6:26 pm

    This sounds powerful and horrifying so I’m not sure which side will win on reading it.

    • Kim March 9, 2014, 9:32 am

      I imagine reading is as a parent would be much different than the way I read it, just from having a different perspective — maybe more on the horrifying side, I’m not sure.

  • Kailana March 7, 2014, 10:41 am

    I definitely will have to check this out at some point, but I would have to be in the right frame of mind!

  • Rebecca @ Love at First Book March 7, 2014, 11:18 am

    The book sounds devastatingly beautiful. Your review really makes me want to read it. . . it sounds like the experience would be so terrifying and tragic.

    • Kim March 9, 2014, 9:33 am

      One of the things I liked about it was the acknowledgement that grief isn’t linear, it circles in and around itself and only slowly becomes more manageable.

  • Marg March 8, 2014, 5:18 am

    I think it is too soon for me to read this kind of book. Then again, there is a chance that I will never be ready.

  • Jennine G. March 8, 2014, 10:12 am

    I don’t think I could read this! It would give me nightmares and panic attacks.

  • Vasilly March 9, 2014, 11:05 am

    Nice review. I picked this book up before but wasn’t able to read it before sending it back to the library. I’m going to pick it up again soon.

  • Aarti March 9, 2014, 11:37 am

    I’ve heard much about this book. I don’t know if I can handle the emotional level required for it at this time, but I feel like it’s one I would seek out if I were feeling lost and lonely.

  • Christy March 10, 2014, 8:08 pm

    I’m drawn to stories about this tragedy (only films so far), but have not read a book about it yet. I think I’ve been out of touch of new books that are out there as I hadn’t heard of this book. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    • Kim March 12, 2014, 7:01 pm

      It’s just out in paperback, which is another bonus!

  • Katie @ Doing Dewey March 11, 2014, 9:07 am

    Wow, this does sound like a tough read. I’ve heard that it’s very beautiful, but I think it’s a bit too sad of a topic for me to pick it up.

    • Kim March 12, 2014, 7:01 pm

      It’s one of those books that you just know is going to be sad, and you have to be in the mindset for it. But if you are, it’s a beautiful book.

  • Meg March 11, 2014, 2:10 pm

    I’m sure this is absolutely gut-wrenching — but also hard to put down. The stories that came from the aftermath of the tsunami are so heartbreaking.

  • Lu March 30, 2014, 12:11 pm

    This is the second review I have read of this book this weekend and I’m so so hesitant to read it, but I’m drawn to it. I have wanted to read it ever since I read about it the first time. It’s an inexplicable tragedy, between the number of people killed, the suddenness of it. I think it’s important for there to be stories about the individuals who were lost.