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3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  6,396 ratings  ·  1,180 reviews
On the morning of December 26, 2004, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala lost her parents, her husband, and her two young sons in the tsunami she miraculously survived. In this brave and searingly frank memoir, she describes those first horrifying moments and her long journey since. She has written an engrossing, unsentimental, beautifully poised accoun...more
Kindle Edition, 274 pages
Published March 5th 2013 by Knopf
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The Goldfinch by Donna TarttLife After Life by Kate AtkinsonA Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony MarraTenth of December by George SaundersThe Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2013
25th out of 100 books — 479 voters
We All Sleep in the Same Room by Paul RomeWave by Sonali DeraniyagalaIn the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt BellJagannath by Karin TidbeckMy Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock
Underdog Literature: 2013
2nd out of 202 books — 24 voters

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Not a book for me. Wave is compelling, and extremely well written, but is just page after page of pain. The pain and depression are relentless, and I don't understand the appeal of going to a grey, formless universe of awfulness, and just sitting there while the anguish seeps into your skin. I have no children, and I can't imagine the masochism it would take to read this if I did.

But there's another thing. I'm at risk of being seen as a jerk, totally lacking in compassion, but here goes: There'...more
Carey J
I find the negative reviews on here interesting. Many of them want resolution and hope. I think one of the messages of this memoir is that life goes on, but there is never really a resolution to that level of grief. Grief changes shape and evolves but it marches forward. One doesn't just pick herself up by her bootstraps and start a new life full of hope (perhaps some do, but not most). She has had enough time to process some of her pain, but in some ways, she still seems a bit confused and numb...more
It's hard to make a negative comment about this book without coming across as hard hearted, but here goes! I found it really hard to empathise with the author as she came across as cold, selfish and spoilt. It's impossible to know how one would react in a situation as tragic as this, but I would hope that most people wouldn't be as callous as she. Even before she knew her family was dead her attitude towards everyone around her was cruel, including a boy in tears asking her if his parents were d...more
This book is going to haunt me for days. Sonali Deraniyagala writes about an unfathomable tragedy - losing her husband, sons and parents in the 2004 tsunami - with grace, beauty and brutal honesty, fluidly moving between her memories of the disaster, her life before it, and her struggles and failures to cope in the years afterwards. Her loving, unsentimental descriptions of her family are beautifully written and truly heartbreaking, and the book makes for an interesting study of memory almost as...more
Jennifer O'Connell
I read this in four hours straight tonight but I know it will stay with me for a very, very long time. It is piercing, raw, sparsely written and without doubt the saddest story I have ever encountered: the memoir of Sonali Deraniyagala who lost her two young sons, her husband and both her parents in the St Stephen's Day tsunami of 2004.

Don't read it expecting closure or redemption, because - of course - there can be none. Nor is it an account of the tsunami or the hundreds of thousands of others...more
What is most striking to me about this memoir of the tsunami which hit Sri Lanka December 26, 2004 is the clarity with which Deraniyagala shares her sense of dislocation, devastation, and despair following the deaths of her entire family. She recalls rising water in words that take one’s breath, and then her stunned silence and blank lack of emotion when she describes the tsunami’s aftermath, when she alone of her family remained, covered in black mud and clinging to a tree.

What I never knew and...more
Monica Casper
I study and teach trauma, and so I'm naturally drawn to trauma memoirs--a genre I know well. I'm also a mom and daughter, and this story of grief and colossal loss drew me in from the first page. Unimaginable to lose one's children, husband, and parents in one massive event. Deraniyagala does an amazing job of capturing the confusion she felt post-catastrophe, the sense of not being in her life without her loved ones there to anchor her. Moreover, her self-destruction--drinking, suicidal thought...more
Deb Stone
The book opens with a line that depicts Deraniyagala’s not-knowing; the not-knowing so many shared before that day when we saw news accounts of the destruction caused by the tsunami. By page two, we know the inescapable horror from which the author attempts to flee.

We clasp hands with her and run. We leap with her in the jeep, feel the rising water, feel the weight of her children hanging by their armpits, feel the jeep overturn in the churning wave. We share her numb disbelief, too, and in the...more
Early on in life, many of us were exposed to the story of Job – a blameless and upstanding man who is forced to endure an agony of human despair and desolation of spirit by meaningless tragedies that afflict him. The question raised is this: “Why does apparently senseless tragedy strike good people?”

There has never, to my mind, been a satisfactory answer to this question, which continues to exude a grim fascination for the very reason of its senselessness. In reading this tragic and haunting mem...more
When natural disaster strikes we read the papers and watch the news coverage with laden hearts. Our minds have trouble comprehending the devastation, the loss of life, the emotional shock of these horrific events. Unless local or personal, all too quickly my life moves on, forgetting the ongoing grief, destruction and loss that continues to plague these people.

What compelled me to read Sonali Deraniyagala's Wave? Why would I choose to read this personal, gut wrenching account? Sonali Deraniyaga...more
I'm sure that a lot of people cannot relate to this book and the author's motivation for it, but for me, it voices back my own shift of reality due to trauma and the resulting mental illness, and that comforts me. Some parts of the book are absolutely stunning and then more so when I remember it is a memoir and all true. The author has a talent for writing so raw and beautifully, often poetic.

I know that this book is a big part of the authors healing and am so proud of her for facing it. Some r...more
For three years I've tried to indelibly imprint they are dead on my consciousness, afraid of slipping up and forgetting, of thinking they are alive. Coming out of that lapse, however momentary, will be more harrowing than the constant knowing, surely.

Wave was heartbreakingly beautiful. I initially wanted to read this book because of the Tsunami element, but it really is not about a Tsunami at all. It's about losing everyone you love in one moment, and how you learn to live with it. The author's...more
Story Description:

McClelland & Stewart|March 5, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-7710-2536-5

A brave, intimate, beautifully crafted memoir by a survivor of the tsunami that struck the Sri Lankan coast in 2004 and took her entire family.

On December 26, Boxing Day, Sonali Deraniyagala, her English husband, her parents, her two young sons, and a close friend were ending Christmas vacation at the seaside resort of Yala on the south coast of Sri Lanka when a wave suddenly overtook them. She was only to...more
This is a hard book to review considering the content. Here you have someone opening up with brutal honesty about her feelings over losing her family in the tsunami. And I don't mean just her husband and two children, but her parents as well. We learn of her agonizing journey over the course of 7 years. I'm reminded of a scene in one of my favorite movies, "Robocop", in which officer Murphy (now transformed into Robocop) is walking through his old home, touching things like picture frames, and b...more
Lorianne DiSabato
I recently finished Sonali Deraniyagala's Wave, which I'd originally reviewed here. When I wrote that review, I had read only the first half of the book. Now that I've finished the entire thing, I'm still thinking about it. Wave is a book you read slowly, then spend a long time processing.

Wave struck me as being several memoirs in one: or, more accurately, a memoir that recounts the cyclic and spiraling cycles of grief. Grief isn't something you get over, as if life after loss could ever be the...more
Jan 18, 2014 Holly added it
Shelves: 2013-reads
When a memoirist's honesty is unflinching, and when I can tell that they have asked serious questions, and when they can explain themselves in interesting and surprising prose, then I don't care what the memoir is "about." And yet, with regard to "aboutness," I admit to curiosity about a personal account of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. So when this book appeared with its preceding "buzz" and reviews in important places, I wanted to read it.

The beginning was gripping and immediate and vivid an...more
Mumsibles G
I don't usually do book reviews. I leave it to one of my best mates Sanjee's Book Nook to review books. One of the reasons why I'm doing this review is because I just finished reading this book and it really moved me.

It took me two takes to read this book. My first try reading this book, I just didn't have the stomach for it. I closed it, locked it inside the cupboard and went to bed very very depressed. I decided I will not attempt to read it again. My mind could just not take how Sonali could...more
Diane Yannick
My rating is 4.5 to be precise. In 2004 in Sri Lanka, a tsunami sweeps away Sonali's two sons, husband and parents. By the miracle of a tree branch, she lives. Once she escaped from the spinning mud, she gradually had to accept the truth. She was no longer a mother, wife or daughter. She was alone.

The tsunami arrives during a peaceful family morning just one day after Christmas. Her sons were playing with their gifts from the day before. The description of the tsunami is powerful and ends with t...more
Jessica Larson-Wang
This is not a traditional novel, and those expecting a fast paced tsunami memoir will be disappointed. This is about one woman's journey through grief and healing, and it is very personal and internal. There is very little action past the first quarter or so of the book, and the plot turns entirely inward as we mourn with the author and struggle with her to come to terms with a loss that has shattered her whole world. Deraniyagala has managed to describe the indescribable, and she does it with s...more
There are so many things i would like to say about this beautiful and moving memoir -- it is the saddest and the lovliest. The darkest and the lightest. I chose to read it because of the most basic of human needs - curiosity. How does a mother , wife, daughter go on after losing her entire family - sons, husband, parents. Well, our hearts as readers break in conjunction with the story of her broken one and we discover several things along with her. In fact , her story is sort of a writing quest...more
"Such a puny life. Starved of their loveliness, I feel shrunken. Diminished and faded, without their sustenance, their beauty, their smiles."

What a shocking, horrific, heart wrenching story. At times I cried so much I struggled to breathe, other times I could not bring myself to shed a tear.

I cannot imagine something so terrible happening. To have eveyone close to you being taken from you in a moment. Whilst reading I could not even try and imagine what it must feel like. To come to terms not o...more
This woman's account of life after the 2004 tsunami was heart-breaking, certainly, and was a reminder to enjoy the present, as not one of us knows how much time we have on this earth. I can't imagine losing a child or spouse, let alone my whole family. However, there were a few things that niggled at me as I read this. I should preface my thoughts by saying of course I understand that this was a theraputic process for her; she wasn't setting out to write an audience-pleasing best-seller, and of...more
Wave is Deraniyagala’s short and searing memoir focusing on the December 26, 2004 tsunami, which, when it hit Sri Lanka, killed the author’s parents, her husband, and their two young sons. In that family only the author survived. There’s no question that this is one of the most moving, painfully powerful, and gorgeously written memoirs I’ve read in many years. Instead, the question for me was why would I (or anyone) feel compelled to read such an upsetting documentation of sudden and unbearable...more
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala is one of the saddest, most moving books and is demonstrative of just how incredibly resilient the human spirit can be. On December 26, 2004, a tsunami struck the southern coast of Sri Lanka. That morning, which started out as a typical 'day after Christmas' morning for Ms. Deraniyagala, her husband Steve, her two young sons and her parents... turned into an unbelievable nightmare from which she is still trying to make sense of to this day. Ms. Deraniyagala (original...more
I started this book thinking it would be a story of healing. A woman loses her two sons, husband, both parents and best friend in the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka. How do you begin to recover from that? I don't know and this book doesn't really help me understand. After her well written description of the tsunami, the biggest chunk of the book was a list of things she couldn't do, how could she throw away the floor mat that her sons' shoes had left mud on, how could she look at the eagles knowing h...more
Jaclyn Day
I was going to write this review tomorrow but I couldn’t wait. I just finished this book maybe 20 minutes ago. I can still feel the remains of the tears that fell uncontrollably as I turned the final pages. I am wrecked. I have never read a book like this.

Sonali and her family—her husband, two sons (aged 5 and 7) and her parents—were vacationing on the coast of Sri Lanka in the latter days of 2004. The book begins in their hotel room. Her two sons are playing with their Christmas presents and he...more
This is a powerful story about a woman who lost her husband, children and parents in the 2004 tsunami. Sonali and her family were vacationing in Sri Lanka when the wave hit, and her world fell apart. Sonali managed to survive by clinging to a tree branch, but the rest of her family was killed. "Wave" is a grief memoir, with Sonali trying to adjust to a new life of being alone. She goes through a desperate period of wanting to kill herself; she drinks too much alcohol and barely leaves her room....more
I read one review of Wave that said, 'You’ll have to steel yourself to read Wave, but steel yourself you should'. It is surely one of the saddest books I have ever read, but also one of the most powerful.

I agree with Cheryl Strayed who said of this book: 'I didn’t feel as if I was going to cry while reading WAVE, I felt as if my heart might stop'.

It is a book about survival. About surviving unimaginable loss (Deraniyagala's entire family, including her parents, died in the 2004 tsunami). But it...more
You hear "memoir by a woman who lost her husband, children, and parents in a tsunami" and you figure you're in for a depressing, maybe even maudlin read. But this remarkable memoir is a pleasure. Deraniyagala never once stoops to cliche or sentimentality. She's angry, specific, and shockingly honest. She makes you understand what it's like to lose everything, but more importantly, she reminds you of the daily pleasures of marriage and motherhood, and brings her husband and sons back to life thro...more
Jennifer Margulis
I still don't want to believe that Sonali Deraniyagala lost her two little boys, her husband Steve, and her mother and father in the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka in 2004. After the last page I started reading the book again, looking for a different outcome. This is a haunting, devastating memoir, beautifully told. It shreds your heart.
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“I am in the unthinkable situation that people cannot bear to contemplate.” 10 likes
“Their promise, my children's possibilities, still linger in our home.” 7 likes
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