Wave

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala is a very powerful book. It is riveting in the depth of it’s despair. Almost unbelievable. It is so shocking that at times I had to remind myself that it was a memoir and not fiction. If you haven’t heard about this book yet, you definitely will in short order. It is the absolutely devastating story of how Sonali lost her husband  Steve,7 year old son Vikram, 5 year old son Malli, her parents Aachchi & Seeya, and best friend Orlantha in the Boxing Day Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 while vacationing over Christmas in Sri Lanka. (Most of the reviews I read failed to mention the names of the family members she lost in this terrible tragedy –  they’re just reduced to husband, sons, mother & father. I found this appalling!) It was the last day of their vacation, Orlantha knocked on their hotel door to see if they were ready to leave (in just a minute, Steve is in the bathroom)… and then all Hell broke loose. They saw the enormous wave, panic ensued, they try to escape in a jeep up into the hills (no time to even knock on her parents’ door) the water kept rising, then surged over everything, the jeep turned over, and they got separated. Sonali managed to cling to a tree branch while everyone else disappeared never to be seen again. Eventually rescuers spot her spinning like a top, covered in mud, minus her trousers. It’s unbelievable to imagine how anyone could survive this, never mind the years of agony to follow. When reality sets in and she is ready to admit that everyone is gone, years of absolute misery coping with this unbelievable tragedy follow. Interspersed with the details of her story are little snippets of memory, happy times, that give us a look into the lives and personalities of Steve, Vik, Malli, Mum, Dad, and Orlantha before that dreadful catastrophy took their lives away. Life really isn’t survival of the fittest, it’s survival of the most resilient. I can’t imagine anyone more resilient than Sonali.

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