My first Random House read for March is Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala, a personal memoir about surviving the 2004 tsunami off the coast of Sri Lanka. I’ve had a thing for memoirs lately, I love hearing the stories of other people.
What would you do if your whole world was destroyed in an instant? Sonali was in Sri Lanka with her husband, two sons (ages 8 and 6), and her mother and father when the wave hit. She was the only survivor. As you read her description of the wave, of being pushed around through the water, of the intense pain she felt in her chest, you become short of breath. As you follow her story from the realization that her family would never come back, to recounting stories of them from before the wave hit, to the pain she still harbours today, you still can’t catch your breath.
“I must stop remembering. I must keep them in a faraway place. The more I remember, the greater my agony.” (page 51)
That is how Sonali tried to cope in the months following the wave. She tried to forget. Imagine having to remind yourself everyday that your family is gone. Imagine having to walk back into your home without the ones that you love. Imagine having to live two lives — one in your memories, where you are a mother, wife, and daughter. And one where you feel you are no longer any of those, one where memories torment you. Sonali put her whole being onto the page, you can feel her emotions, her pain ebbs into your veins, and her words leave a mark on your soul.
This beautifully written memoir brought to my attention an incredible disaster. Her vivid memory of the incident will live on in my mind. The loss of her family will forever remind me to appreciate mine, to not take them for granted, and to always apologize. I don’t think I could survive without my family.
Sonali is so much braver than I could ever be and I thank her for having the courage to share her story.
Wave comes out today and I urge you to pick up a copy — it is a wonderful read.