Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Book Review: "Wave" by Sonali Deraniyagala

Every so often you hear about a person who survived an accident, fire, or some other type of tragedy while all other members of their family, household, or car died. I always wonder how that person finds the strength to carry on with their life, and how they're able to handle the feelings of guilt, sadness, and anger that certainly must affect them.

Sonali Deraniyagala is one of those people. When the tsunami hit Asia in December 2004, she and her family were vacationing on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. After the water subsided, she survived, while her husband, two young sons, and her parents all died. While she sustained physical trauma, as you could imagine, her emotional trauma was far worse. How could she continue living her life when her entire family was gone? Why did she survive while everyone else died? When every day of her life was defined by her being a wife, a mother, and a daughter, what would happen now?

"I don't want it to be tomorrow. I was terrified that tomorrow the truth would start."

Wave is an emotionally powerful account of the days, months, and years of Deraniyagala's life following the tsunami. The book follows her efforts to try and come to terms with her losses and begin living her life again—the struggles, the setbacks, the challenges, and the victories she experienced throughout. The book also details her realization that the small events in life, the likes, dislikes, and dreams of her children, the habits of her husband and parents, were often where the magic was.

While Wave certainly packs a punch, it is never maudlin. The book never tries to manipulate you, and Deraniyagala is frank and blunt about her feelings. This is a book designed to make you think more than make you cry, and it is also a book that has you marvel at the strength of one woman to carry on in the face of tragedy that would easily break almost anyone.

I feel privileged that Sonali Deraniyagala chose to share her feelings, her struggles, and her experiences in this book. It reads very quickly, yet her writing is poetic and wonderful, and in my mind's eye I can see her family vividly thanks to her descriptions. This is a difficult but tremendously moving and inspiring book.

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