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Wave Hardcover – March 5, 2013

4 out of 5 stars 581 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, March 2013: In an unblinking act of storytelling, Sonali Deraniyagala ruthlessly chronicles the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that horrifically snatched from her all that mattered. Throughout this fierce and furious book, I kept wondering how someone who lost so much could write about it with such power, economy and grace. At first, she shrieks and grieves openly, angrily; for years she remains stunned and staggered, shamed by “the outlandish truth of me.” Then, slowly, she allows herself to remember, sharing vivid glimpses of her past. We see, hear, and smell two rowdy little boys, their brotherly scuffling, their muddy shoes and grass stains. By confronting and recreating moments that make us laugh and weep, we accept their absence and root for the author not to quit. Difficult to describe, tricky to recommend, this is a bold and wondrous book. In a wounded voice that manages to convey the snide, sarcastic, funny, and fatalistic personality that survives beneath the pain, Deraniyagala slowly pieces together the elements that represent the life--the lives--she lost. And she brings them back. For us, for her, for them. So brave, so beautiful, in these pages Deraniyagala’s family is brilliantly alive. And so is she. --Neal Thompson

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It was a festive time. Economist Deraniyagala, her economist husband (they met at Cambridge), and their two young sons flew from London to Sri Lanka to spend the winter holidays with her parents. They were all staying in a hotel near their favorite national park on December 26, 2004, the day of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami. Deraniyagala describes their bewilderment as they flee the hotel and her terror as they are swept up by the 30-foot-high, racing wave that brutally changed everything. Only Deraniyagal survived. 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 as, with astounding candor and precision, she tracks subsequent waves of grief, from suicidal despair to persistent fear, attempts to drown her pain in drink, “helpless rage,” guilt and shame, and paralyzing depression. But here, too, are sustaining tides of memories that enable her to vividly, even joyfully, portray her loved ones. An indelible and unique story of loss and resolution written with breathtaking refinement and courage. --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (March 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307962695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307962690
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 1.1 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (581 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have to say, this book shows the absolute darkness of humans when they face the unthinkable natural disasters. This book is brutully honest, with such vivid discription about almost every single detail of the Tsunami that the author was encountering: the deadly smell of it, the weight, the color...

After reading many memoirs writing about similar survial stories, I honestly think this is one of the shortest and the best ones. I simply could not put it down.when I just finished the first chapter, I could feel the desperation,hopelessness, and numbness from the author, like a mental picture was made in my mind about everything that she has to learn to understand, and eventually, surrenders to.

In my view, POWERFUL is the best word to describe about this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Confusion was the only thing to cling to in the hours after the tsunami in Sri Lanka. Somali had seen the ocean coming for land and had fled with her children, Vik and Mal, and her husband Steve. She didn't pause to alert her parents. She didn't pause for those left behind. Having been picked up by a Jeep, the waters caught them nonetheless. Bin the dark swirling of mud and water, she grabs a limb and survives. For months afterwards, it is her survival that is the tragedy. Family gone, she longs to join them.

We have become inured by the overwhelming number of stories of horror and tragedy. Perhaps we have thought to ourselves what we might do. Surely, we would sweep our parents up. Nor seeing the ocean in so strange a fashion, would be one of those who fled early. We might have had a better plan to survive. But in the end this is not the case. This book impels us to face the fact that given the overwhelming, we are helpless.

The author talks intimately of her days, months, years following the loss of her family. The prose is revelatory but not melodramatic. Sonali's story is told honestly with her attempts of suicide, her drinking, and her despair. She doesn't hide her frank anger with those who did survive. She doesn't rationalize the depths of despair and the inward turning of grief. It has been said that humans cannot grasp the horror of thousands of deaths, but can come to understand it by learning a story in depth. This book puts truth to this perception.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an "up-all-night" read- be prepared not to stop once you start. Sonali recounts, first-hand, the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka on December 26th, 2004. This book reads like being swept up by a wave yourself, tossed about, disoriented, foggy and oh-so-honest. It recounts the riveting moments as she and her family try to flee the wave and the aftermath of the wave that ripped through her family.

In some ways, reading this was like watching a car accident... I was pulled in the first moments. And then, as a mother of two, a wife, a human being- I was swept into the aftermath that was like a fog for Sonali in the days, weeks, months... years... following as she tries to get her head above water and reorient herself, make sense of the tragedy. There is a strong sense of trying to find one's orientation. Anyone who has experienced a great loss will understand the shock, fog, disorientation. This was like being in someone else's nightmare yet so very compelling, my sense of sympathy and empathy kept me reading- and a sheer sense of awe and compassion at how one survives such devastation, of Sonali's strength. One woman writes the pain of hundreds of thousands of people.

This is a quick and riveting read but heavy stuff. The author writes with such candor and is so raw it is difficult not to question, "What if it had been me?" That is a difficult question and yet such a necessary one in our world today where 'bad things happen to other people'. The author's healing is the reader's relief and her suffering is so intensely palpable- if you are looking for a light, frothy read or a tabloid-like retelling of this horror, this is not it.

This book is about how precious the moments of our lives are and how everything can be turned sideways and upside down in a matter of moments- and also about the great, quiet courage of continuing to live when you feel you have lost all. Very real. Exquisite. You will be changed.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This short book is one I will never forget. The writer tells us in simple, straightforward language how she managed to survive, and eventually, live, after losing her entire family in the 2005 tsunami. I don't think I've ever read anyone write as simply and stunningly as this - about extreme loss. At each juncture in the months, then years after the tsunami, readers learn how Deraniyagala coped by shutting out parts of her pre-tsunami life, and how she very gradually let memories in. She offers no magical answers, nothing but her years of dealing with this horrendous loss.

I read alot, about 70 books a year, and very very few get five stars. Five stars for me means the book goes way beyond "well-written", or "good story" to the level of impactful in my own life. I can't think of another book about loss that resonates so much - -
I have nothing comparable to her loss but her words help me view my own losses through different lenses.

I will remember this book just as I will always remember Joan Didon's Year of Magical Thinking. . .it's unforgettable. Deraniyagala displays unbelievable courage.
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