Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Wave” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.75  ·  Rating details ·  17,889 ratings  ·  2,712 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 (first published 2013)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Wave, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Brenda If you have someone in your life who has lost a loved one, or especially more than one loved one at the same time, you should read this book. The aut…more If you have someone in your life who has lost a loved one, or especially more than one loved one at the same time, you should read this book. The author has the amazing ability to describe what she goes through in such a way that helps the reader understand her experience of profound grief. There is no proper time line for grief recovery. She does the best she can, but it takes a long time for her to deal with so much loss. This book provides the opportunity to understand grief and loss when you have no other way to do so. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  17,889 ratings  ·  2,712 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Wave
Jan 19, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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'
Carey J
Mar 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In December 2004, Sonali Deraniyagala and her family were home for Christmas. When the tsunami hit Sri Lanka, they all caught in the wave. She survived her parents, her husband, and their children.

Her book tells of her painful progress to recovery from her losses. Having personally gotten stuck a time or two in anger and denial with my own lesser losses, I appreciated her candor. I'm glad that I read the book.
Jon Nakapalau
It took me a long time to finish this book because there were times when I could not read the next page. The loss that Sonali suffered was so crushing that I often was at a loss to comprehend it - I had to take time to find a frame of reference before I could read further. After I finished I realized that she had found that still place in her heart where a wave of remembrance could gently soothe her as she bravely faced life without her loved ones. If you know someone facing a terminal illness I ...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
Greta G
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Greta G by: Jon Nakapalau
Suddenly losing your parents, your husband and your two little sons, and barely surviving a devastating tsunami yourself.
A wave, that came for them on the morning of December, 26, 2004, when the children were playing with their Christmas presents in a hotel room in Yala, Sri Lanka.

"Such a puny life. Starved of their loveliness, I feel shrunken. Diminished and faded, without their sustenance, their beauty, their smiles. Nothing like how I was that day before the wave."

The grief is unfathomable,
Monica Casper
Mar 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, disaster, grief
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.
Sep 01, 2016 added it
Shelves: audio
As an empath and a highly sensitive person, I made a very poor decision in opting to listen to this one. I have always stayed away from it expecting it to be impossibly heart-rending. I only made it halfway and I just can't continue. To think that her story is just one of so many. My heart hurts! ...more
Apr 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author was vacationing with her family at a national park on the southeast coast of her native Sri Lanka in December 2004 when the Boxing Day tsunami hit, killing her parents, husband, and two sons. Job-like, Deraniyagala gives shape to her grief and lovingly remembers a family life now gone forever as she tours her childhood home in Colombo and her London house. It’s not until over six years later that she feels “I can rest … with the impossible truth of my loss, which I have to compress of ...more
Jennifer O'Connell
Mar 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
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
Dec 13, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Not recommended

(Full disclosure: book abandoned at page 103 [out of 228 pages].)

Memoirs are the most intimate of stories and likely the ones the author is most personally invested in. The problem with Wave is that it’s intimate to the point of reading like the author’s most private journal. Wave is an homage to Deraniyagala’s two sons, husband, and parents, who all perished in the Indian Ocean tsunami that hit on December 26, 2004. The author is thoroughly gutted afterward and spares no detail
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Sonali lost her entire family - two sons, her husband, and her parents - in the 12/26/04 tsunami. She wrote a book about it as part of her therapy and while I think the writing is excellent and the emotions are devastating, I do partly wonder why share this with the world? Particularly after seeing how Sherman Alexie's book tour about his memoir about his mother was so difficult, how could you handle interviews or appearances after people read about this experience? At the same time the story is ...more
Ina Cawl
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
this book is one of the saddest book i ever reading my entire reading life
in short this short memoir describes our author guilt of survivor and how writing somehow helped her cope with her pain and sadness
Deb Stone
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Claudia Putnam
Apr 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
It's a little sad when a book that clearly took a long time to write, and to be able to write, takes only a few hours to read. I charged through this last night; could not put it down, as heavy as the material is.

Most basic response: ANGER at the negative or judgmental reviews this book has received. While Wave has received a huge positive response as well, I say SHAME ON those who feel there should be some kind of happy ending to this. I think of Barbara Ehrenreich's study Bright-sided: How th
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Karen Witzler
Our human sister Sonali gives us a map, a guidebook to human grief. I read this during Covid 19 lockdown, completing it on Easter Sunday.

I am most struck by the nature imagery: images of birds and plants, their dangerous wildness, along with cultivated gardens, imbued with greater power and mystery than all philosophies and religions and which seem to imperceptibly (along with time and the caring relatives who knew to hide the booze and knives) bring her back to a functional healing.
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Emma Scott
I'm struggling with how to describe what I feel about this book except to say I wanted more. More insight, more introspection. More HOW.

For example, she speaks early on of wanting to kill herself. As a grieving mother, I've been there too, but instead of being taken through that journey--which is in an important one, I think--the suicidal feelings simply fade out of the narrative. We are never shown the evolution of that kind of pain, but then again, maybe that wasn't her point or her purpose f
Judith E
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Thank you Ms. Deraniyagala for sharing all of this. So many poignant thoughts about grief: "How is this me? I was always safe?", "The four of us, we slept here in all our innocence. That'll teach us.", "In an instant I lost my shelter."

Not many of us have suffered what she has, but the mind control and exhaustion of grief are inescapable.
Waveis Sonali Deraniyagala's horrific experience as the lone surviving member of her family from the 2004 tsunami off the coast of Indonesia. The tsunami struck suddenly the day after Christmas. Deraniyagala was staying at a tourist hotel with her husband, their two young sons, and her parents.

The actual event takes places in the first few pages. One moment, Deraniyagala, an economist, has "the life of a dream" according to a friend. Within a few minutes, all of this is wiped out. Deraniyagala f
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
In Sonali Deraniyagala’s frank and candid memoir, she recounts the loss of her parents, husband, and two sons who were all killed in the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka. Wave is every bit as harrowing as you’d imagine, but it’s also refreshingly sincere and devoid of sensationalism - instead it rather beautifully captures one woman’s honest and occasionally ugly experience with grief. Although it’s at times a bit meandering and repetitive in execution it is utterly gripping from start to finish. There ...more
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
What drew you to this book and do you have conflicted feelings about it? 1 7 Jul 20, 2019 05:05PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Combine Editions - "Wave" by Sonali Deraniyagala 3 12 Jul 13, 2019 12:48AM  
2017 Reading Chal...: Wave 1 25 Jan 04, 2016 06:02PM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala 1 16 Mar 30, 2015 03:01PM  
Wave 5 53 Aug 07, 2014 05:26PM  
AMPL Online: Wave Discussion 1 18 Jul 03, 2014 08:47AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Playing in the Light
  • After Disasters
  • The Road From Elephant Pass
  • Ladyboys: The Secret World of Thailand's Third Gender
  • Улица в лунном свете
  • Memorial Drive: A Daughter's Memoir
  • Serendipity
  • Lean on Me (Family Is Forever, #1)
  • Men We Reaped
  • Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump
  • Growing Up with a Soul Full of Nature: One Man's Story of a Childhood Filled with Nature as a Teacher
  • TREYF: My Life as an Unorthodox Outlaw
  • My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me
  • The Disaster Diaries: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse
  • A Fortune for Your Disaster
  • Grace from the Rubble: Two Fathers' Road to Reconciliation after the Oklahoma City Bombing
  • Life Is Magic: My Inspiring Journey from Tragedy to Self-Discovery
  • The Amen Corner
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Sonali Deraniyagala is a Sri Lankan memoirist and economist. Born and raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka, she studied economics at Oxford and Cambridge. She married economist Stephen Lissenburgh.

While on vacation at Sri Lanka's Yala National Park in December 2004, she lost her two sons, her husband, and her parents in the Indian Ocean tsunami. The tsunami carried her two miles inland and she was able to

News & Interviews

  Here at Goodreads, we've noticed that a funny thing tends to happen when we start talking about audiobooks: The same few titles get...
44 likes · 12 comments
“I am in the unthinkable situation that people cannot bear to contemplate.” 24 likes
“I will kill myself soon. But until then how do l tame my pain?” 22 likes
More quotes…