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 learn later that this a tsunami that devastated coastlines through Southeast Asia. When the water began to encroach closer to their hotel, they began t run, but in an instant water engulfed them. sonali was separated from her family, and all was lost. Sonali Deraniyagala has written an extraordinarily honest, utterly engrossing account of the surreal tragedy of a devastating event that all at once ended her life as she it and her journey since in search of understanding and redemption. It is also a remarkable portrait of a young family’s life and what came before, with all the small moments and larger dreams that suddenly and irrevocably ended.
I’m finding it a bit difficult to write this review as on the one hand the story itself was a huge letdown and not at all what I expected for all the hype I’d heard. On the other hand, it was an amazing novel of the telling of immense grief Sonali went through in coping to learn to live without her entire family.
I expected the story to be more of a telling of not only her own family and the tragedy she faced in losing everyone but also I expected some other stories of other people she met along with way and what their stories entailed in this unbelievably sad day in the life of so, so many people. I found the book to be quite repetitive in a lot of places and kept waiting for something “new” which never really materialized.
It is said that some 226,000 people lost their lives that day and that is a staggering number for sure. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose my husband, my children, my parents, and my friends all within the blink of an eye and how finding your way back from that would feel like. Survivor’s guilt for sure enters into this tragedy and one wonders how anyone could have survived what Sonali did that particular day.
However, I just felt the story was lacking ‘something’, I expected more substance and although I understand it is a “memoir”, I still expected to hear more details, figures, numbers, and stories of other people she encountered on her journey to redemption and acceptance. I just felt the book didn’t live up to the hype and I’ve not totally convinced myself that I would bother recommending this to other people, at least not without a warning that it wasn’t what I had expected from this much talked about memoir.