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.
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
Someone had removed the brass plate with my father’s name on it from the gray front wall. It had his name etched in black italics. I sat in the passenger seat of my friend Mary--Anne’s car, my eyes clinging to the holes in the wall where that brass plate was once...
Praise for Wave
“An amazing, beautiful book.”
“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.”
“A bracing and ruthlessly self-confrontational memoir.”
“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.
“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."
“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.”
"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."