Wave - Sonali Deraniyagala

Wave is a first person account of the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 in the Indian Ocean. Deraniyagala was visiting her native country of Sri Lanka with her family (husband Steve, their two boys Vik and Mal, and her parents) at the coastline city of Yala when the wave struck their getaway car and hotel. She was the only one in her family to survive.

The book starts out in the hour before the wave hit; the hotel room was peaceful, with the adults (Sonali and a friend) lingering over breakfast and the kids playing with their Christmas gifts. Steve was in the loo. Word came from another friend that they should leave the coast immediately and that friend was coming to pick them up. Sonali rounded up her two kids and Steve and ran to meet the car; she never stopped to knock on her parents' door to tell them to leave. They just had minutes to leave the area - and never made it to safe ground when the wave it the car and they were separated. Sonali surfaced within the hours but could not find her family. She was rescued and sent to the local hospital. And that is where the heartbreak of that tragedy begins.

This was a heartbreaking story to read, but beautifully written at the same time. Sonali laid bare all the ugly emotions and the mental toll of the event impacted survivors. It took years for Sonali to heal enough to remember her family in a way that honors them, and she did so much of it on her own - there were few people who were really there for her, especially in her lowest points. She is honest and that honesty made me connect with her on so many levels - as a daughter, as a mother, as a wife. The tsunami that struck Japan years after the Indian Ocean one triggered an outpouring of emotions that only a survivor of a similar events can have.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. I would like to read more about the event itself, but reading a survivor's story you get a sense of the emotional and mental impact that a science or history book can lack.