- 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 (597 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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
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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
For a long time, she avoids thinking about her family. She drinks heavily, takes sleeping medication and tries to keep herself in a stupor. She thinks of suicide constantly and imagines different ways that she can take her life. She sees no reason to go on without the family she adored. Her relatives in Sri Lanka watch her day and night but that doesn't stop her from cutting herself, and hurting herself in other ways.
She and her parents are from Sri Lanka and she finds out that her parents' house has been rented. She harasses the renters, a Dutch family, because she wants to sit in the house where her children played and her parents lived, feeling the energy and calmness that is only available to her there.
This book is the story of her journey during an eight year period. Both she and her husband were professors in London and were on sabbatical in Sri Lanka when the wave came. They were due to leave Yala that evening. Now, Ms. Deraniyagala is a guest professor at Columbia University in New York. We travel with her on her geographic journeys as well as her psychic ones as she yearns at first to be demolished and not to think of her family, to a place in her heart where she wants the memories of her family close to her.
She attributes a lot of her healing to her therapist. It is poignant to see how she clutches the memories of her two boys to her heart at the end, one eight years old and one five years old when the tsunami hit. We learn how she met her husband, Steve, while a student at Cambridge. Sonali imagines what her children and husband would be like today. She grasps at these memories in order to make herself whole though she keeps her personal history mostly to herself when with acquaintances. "By knowing them again, by gathering threads of our life, I am much less fractured. I am also less confused....I can recover myself better when I dare let in their light."
This is a brave and heartrending memoir, one that is shocking and horrific at times. I try to imagine what the author is going through and it is impossible. No one but she can feel this pain. I highly recommend this book for its forthright manner and truth, both its despair and ultimately, its resilience in the face of great loss.