One of The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of the Year
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 account: as she struggles through the first months following the tragedy, furiously clenched against a reality that she cannot face and cannot deny; and then, over the ensuing years, as she emerges reluctantly, slowly allowing her memory to take her back through the rich and joyous life she’s mourning, from her family’s home in London, to the birth of her children, to the year she met her English husband at Cambridge, to her childhood in Colombo; all the while learning the difficult balance between the almost unbearable reminders of her loss and the need to keep her family, somehow, still alive within her.
Deraniyagala's debut book recounts her life after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami took the lives of her parents, husband, and two sons in Sri Lanka. After being pulled from the muddy wasteland that was formerly the jungle surrounding her hotel, Sonali is taken to a hospital where the reality of her family's death creeps into her psyche. As their bodies are found, Sonali begins to withdraw from the world, searching the internet for the best way to kill herself, drinking every drop of alcohol she can find including bottles of aftershave and tormenting the renters of her parents' now vacant house. As she gradually returns to her life, she begins to find the absence of things intolerable, nearly breaking down when she doesn't hear her husband or sons in the house, secretly eating chocolate in the guest room. This is a story not about overcoming grief and loss, but of embracing reality in the face of pain and sadness. It packs an immense punch for being so short or perhaps because it is so short. Conquering the clear difficulties that come with talking about such profound absences, Deraniyagala has written a book teaming with beautiful ruminations on the bittersweetness of memory and the precariousness of life.
Beautifully written book about loss and how trauma affects memory. Incredible story.
This is now my third attempt at doing this because I can never remember my Apple password.
Last week, I explained to one of my fellow church members that we hear too much of the man made disasters of today and that we sometimes forget about the "Natural" disasters that have befallen our world, ie. the loss of some 250,000 souls lost to the 2004 Sonami.
Sonali Deraniyagala, you have showed us the ultimate in loss and let us share in your grief process. Your writing ended with a reality that your role as a daughter, wife mother and friend brought you full circle to you continuing to live with you reaching out to your loved ones that you lost in a most natural way. This was centered around your most important role as wife and mother to two beautiful boys.
Our past is part of our present and you will always be the friend, daughter, wife and mother thru your past life connections and your book shows that life will continue to be lived and experienced thru those heart connections.
God speed and Blessings to you,
Heartbreaking and life affirming
The honesty of her experience and how she honors her late family is utterly phenomenal and breathtaking.