By Sonali Deraniyagala,

Book cover of Wave

Book description

Winner of the PEN/Ackerley Prize 2014

The book opens and we are inside the wave: thirty feet high, moving at twenty-five mph, racing two miles inland. And from there into the depths of the author's despair: how to live now that her life has been undone?

Sonali Deraniyagala tells her…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked Wave as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This book is about the most horrifying loss imaginable: the author loses her parents, her husband, and her two young sons all at once, in the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the day after Christmas, 2004. She and her family were spending the holiday in Sri Lanka when the wave hit and overtook the jeep in which they were attempting to flee. I can’t come up with a better justification for suicide than this—she’s lost everyone; she wonders why she was spared, just to suffer these losses every minute of every hour of every day. The book is both a…

From Melanie's list on inhabiting unthinkable loss.

Wave is an extraordinary and brutally honest memoir about the 2004 tsunami that claimed the lives of an estimated 230,000 people, including the author’s parents, husband, and two sons. All of this happens in the book’s first devastating chapter. Deraniyagala uses the rest of the memoir to move back and forward in time. In the aftermath of the tsunami, she doesn’t want to live, but through remembering the past—the happy life she lived with her family—she is able to face a grief almost beyond words. No matter the loss—in my case, my mother to COVID in 2021—Wave reminds us…

From Nicholas' list on grief: literary companions after loss.

When I was a young arts journalist, I was very lucky to have been assigned by the Sunday New York Times to write a profile of theatrical producer Joseph Papp. I later wrote his biography. Sometime during our interviews, he talked to me about books and plays that were so urgently written that you felt that if the author hadn’t done so they would have killed someone instead. He believed in that kind of art – not in playing around with art for art’s sake. I thought of him when I read Wave, which is about the author’s surviving…

From Helen's list on trauma and recovery.

When a disastrous tsunami hit Sri Lanka in 2004, Sonali Deraniyagala lost her mother, her father, her husband, and her two young sons. Written at the advice of a therapist, Wave could have been an unbearable book. Instead, Deraniyagala’s prose is breathtaking as she relates the horror of being sucked into the wave and the aftermath of finding herself alone. She does not claim she will ever recover from this loss, but with her words, she breathes life into her lost family, and I feel privileged to have known them.

From Monica's list on maternal grief and universal love.

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