If, like many other students at this stage in the year, you are trying to avoid anything that might induce tears, heartache or perspective, then Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala should remain closed, for now. Nonetheless, this haunting and courageous tale deserves its 250-page-wide space on your bookshelf.
Deraniyagala’s account of the tsunami that ripped through shores on the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day 2004 is harrowing and soul-wrenching. Among the 280,000 people killed by the tsunami were Deraniyagala’s parents, her two sons and her husband. By surviving, Deraniyagala is the aftermath that lost everything in the disaster.
Following the catastrophe, the reader wants to believe that Wave is a story of recovery; that its narrator, somehow, pushes on against this unimaginable yet so poignantly depicted grief to a new happiness. But hope is absent from the pages of Deraniyagala’s work. This is a raw truth, a blunt recollection of life after the tsunami, where relief and release from reality is found in a cocktail of vodka and sleeping tablets. For all the physical paths destroyed by this ‘wave’, the meta has also been obliterated for Deraniyagala; there is no way up, no road ahead, no family. Without them, and on her own, the story culminates without a conclusion. Far from offering the prospect that things for Deraniyagala will be better in the future, the reader is forced to accept that they will just be.
This is a story of destruction, in every sense of the word, but it is a powerful and delicate piece. With the ninth anniversary of the tsunami upon us this month, it is perhaps then that this memoir should be read.