There is nothing more human than the ability to empathize with another human being. There is nothing more frightening than the unknown. And there is no singular fear that is as universal as the fear of losing control. Wave is a memoir of one woman's utter decimation by a singular moment of what was previously unknown, and at the same time, utterly beyond her control. Sonali Deraniyagala opens up her soul and shares something so raw, so real, so heartrendingly personal, you will never forget it.
How many people had ever even heard of a Tsunami of the magnitude that struck on Boxing Day in 2004. For someone to be battered and tossed about like a rag-doll in the churning waves, to have family ripped from your hands and never be seen again, to have so many people all as lost and broken as you are, all at the same time, it is like hundreds of 9/11s happening all at once, and no one is to blame. There is no face to that kind of destruction, no terrorists, no country, who do you blame?
Sonali Deraniyagala's story is raw and painful and tragic, and I am quite certain that is the case for everyone who experienced the Tsunami of Boxing Day 2004. How do you wrap your brain around something that has destroyed your entire world in just mere minutes of a freak happening, something no one could have imagined or prepared for, something that had previously no widely understood context in the modern world. I was not even half way in to Sonali's story and at that point I could never begin to imagine how she survived that day, let alone the months and years that followed.
If you have read stories of personal loss and tragedy before, if you feel that you know pain, I can only say that this is unlike anything I have read or experienced myself. There is a true discernible difference to this kind of tragic loss, this kind of previously unknown trauma. We grow up learning about the dangers in the world around us, we learn about car accidents, water safety, stranger danger, and fires. Before Boxing Day 2004, no one truly knew the dangers of a Wave, not on this scale. Drowning was a singular experience, or maybe something that happened in a boating accident, not something that happened on a mass scale of natural violence and immense unfathomable loss.
There are many stories of earth-shattering loss available in the form of memoirs or historical accounts, but we have heard relatively little in the way of first-hand accounts from the December 2004 Tsunami, and I think that speaks to the sheer horror experienced by the survivors, their inability or unwillingness to relive those desperate moments, hours, days, weeks... we have heard stories from some of the travelers and vacationers caught up in the Wave, but compile that with the number of locals in Sri Lanka,Thailand, and other affected areas. Many who could tell of the horrors of that day may not be literate, they may have never recovered, or may not even consider this something to be spoken of, how do you put into words something that changed everything you thought you knew or understood in one horrific and violent freak happening. You will cry, you will question, you will be beaten raw by the pain in this one woman's account of her personal hell.
This book is very different, and it is not in a sensational way, it is in the absolute totality of Sonali's loss, and how unreal the entire event must have seemed, even to those who survived it. How does one put it into words? Somehow, Sonali found her way to the place where she could, and I think that her sharing a glimpse into the hell her world became can only make us feel more human, more fragile, more connected, and more alone all at once.
** This review is based on a preview copy of Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala, received through Goodreads First Reads. The opinions expressed in this review are mine alone and have not been influenced in any way by the publisher or author.**