Thursday, June 13, 2013

All may not have been lost…

It is an exceptional narrative on grief, woven around a stirring tale of personal loss and a moving account of incremental recovery. In few minutes on the early hours of December 26, 2004, Sonali Deraniyagala had lost her proud possessions - her two young sons, her husband and her parents - to the furious wave caused by the devastating tsunami.

It has been on ordeal for the daughter, the wife and the mother in her to survive the bizarre but brutal truth. Had an army of family and relatives not foiled her attempts to kill herself, the world would have been bereft of a stunning memoir that expands the notion of 'what love really means.' When life seems predictable, continuity is assumed.

With continuity of life broken, Sonali wonders if 'she could make murky the life she had with her family'. She crawls back into reality in bits and pieces, reliving each moment of togetherness. The red pen marks rising up the wall in their living room reminds her of the periodic exercise in measuring the boys' heights. She kisses those red marks as if kissing the tops of their heads! This can only make a tearful reading.

Out of unimaginable loss comes a haunting story, a moving account of piecing together a fractured life. 'Maybe yearning for them more freely gives me some relief,' Sonali reflects, 'I see my children's friends often now. They are bubbling over when we meet, I enjoy their sparkle. And they make my boys real, so they are not beyond my field of vision, as they were in those first years'. The strength of her prose lies in her taking the reader along in her journey, of converting streaks of emotions into bundles of courage.

Sonali Deraniyagala grew up in Colombo before she left to pursue a career in economics at the Cambridge, where she met her husband Steve. She teaches at the University of London but is currently visiting research scholar at Columbia University, working on issues of economic development, including post-disaster recovery. Contrary to her training as an economist, Wave holds promise as a work of literature. Sonali is a writer of extraordinary talent, the prose is simple, subtle and yet powerful.

Wave makes compelling reading; the author has narrated her inner turbulations with sincerity and honesty. One begins to feel connected with the author, sharing the depths of her grief as much as her efforts in pulling out of it. Within the pain and anguish are nuggets of deep reflections on the gift called life. She wants to be alone on birthdays and the anniversary of the fateful day. 'Alone, I am close to them, I slip back into life or they slip into mine, undisturbed'.

Written almost a decade after the tragic tsunami, Wave recaptures those dreadful moments frame by frame. Without doubt, it is an unforgettable book which tells us how to gather the threads of life when everything is seemingly lost!....Link

by Sonali Deraniyagala
Alfred A. Knoff, New York
230 pages, US$24

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