Wave: a Memoir
By Sonali Deraniyagala
$27 McLelland & Stewart Publishing.
This book starts out with an unimaginable happening.
The year is 2004, the day is Dec. 26.
The family of Sonali Deraniyagala, her husband, her two young boys, eight and five respectively, along with Sonali’s parents are enjoying a Christmas holiday in Yala, Sri Lanka.
The boys love to visit with their grandparents, and Yala, is a National Park, full of wheeling birds, and adventures in nature and the sea.
Alas, the holiday is coming to an end. It is time to go back to London and the normal days of work and school.
They are almost ready to leave when Sonali’s friend Orlantha notices the sea. The foamy waves seem to be coming closer than they have ever come before.
They call to the others to come and see, but as Steve, the boys’ father, joins them at the window, the waves change.
Instantly, the adults know that the sea is too close and it’s coming closer.
They grab the boys hands and they run, as hard as they can run.
The barefoot boys run, too.
No one has thought to warn the grandparents.
Somewhere, way out in the ocean, perhaps by Indonesia, tectonic plates have rubbed together to cause a tsunami, and now it pursues them.
How can it be that no one escapes except Sonali?
The little boys Vikram and Malli, the father, Steve, even the friend Orlantha, are they all gone?
What of the parents?
Sonali is picked up by rescuers and taken to hospital.
She is cut and bruised but she wants no help. She waits for word, survivors are being brought in, she must be ready.
Time passes and those who arrive at the hospital are not hers.
Now begins the long journey to recovery, if possible, and remembering, if she can bear to remember.
What are the options for the survivor?
Finally you know they will not be found.
Drinking doesn’t help, suicide looks promising.
This is a true story written after eight years of healing. She records each step of the way.
She visits her childhood home, now barren and grim. She returns to the hotel at Yala and finds that the waves were 30 feet high and travelling at 25 mph.
The sea went inland for two miles. Facts do not help. She cannot come to terms with her own survival.
There are many stories written about the death of a partner or a child. This story of someone losing everyone is harrowing.
Her pain is unimaginable.
Sonali’s spirit begins to return to her when she can finally relive in her mind the wonder of her children, and the magic of their lives together. The boys were bookish and full of information about the Earth. They loved the whales and the eagles, and Harry Potter books.
They teased Sonali because there were “three boys in the family but only one girl.”
She celebrates their lives and that of her husband and she’s finally home free.
Peggy Freeman is a local freelance book reviewer.