From the very first page I was swept away with “Wave.” Sonali Deraniyagala’s story of her lone survival of the 2004 Tsunami was amazing and terrifying. Standing in a hotel room looking out at the sea, Sonali notices a large wave coming too close to the hotel. She flees the room with her husband and two sons, but she is so focused on getting her boys to safety that she passes by her parents’ room without knocking on the door to warn them of the wave. Her family manages to get to a jeep, but as it drives away from the hotel the water rushes up to it and the jeep is submerged. She is separated from her family, and catapulted into the rough water.
She is found by locals and taken to a hospital, where she sits despondent as she waits to hear the dreaded news that her husband and sons are dead. The short staccato sentences were very effective in portraying her grief. But I soon realized that the majority of the book focused only on her inability to handle this grief. She is haunted by the knowledge that she survived when her parents, husband, sons, and best friend did not. Sonali watches videos of the wave over and over on the internet, and rebels against moving on with her own life.
I read the entire book in one afternoon because I could not put it down. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story filled with so much anguish. The emotional aftermath and devastation of the Tsunami was so palpable that I couldn’t help but feel compassion for all of those whose lives were impacted. In many respects this was an amazing story of survival, but traveling through the dark and lengthy stages of Sonali’s grief was extremely depressing.
There was nothing wrong with the book, but if you dare read it, be ready to go to some dark places.