Tuesday, January 13, 2015

WaveWave by Sonali Deraniyagala
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala is a devastating portrait of grief but also it is a picture of love and living on after tragedy. Her family (husband, two sons, her parents) were lost to the tidal wave which hit Sri Lanka in 2004. Each is portrayed vividly and engenders a start and a smile as these recollections become more bearable.  There are poetic descriptions of nature such as her trip to Sweden where she is “on the deserted shores of a lake of ice, surrounded by naked birches sheathed in frozen fog, each branch glowing like a stag’s antlers in velvet in that mellow light” and .on her return to Yala where the wave hit, she sees “the sea eagles that had thrilled”  her son, “bold in this desolation, they sailed low, sudden shadows striking the bare ground,” or a boat trip to see the blue whales: “a foamy mass heralds the head that rises to the surface, its shape an ancient arch.”  She parses out fond recollections of growing up in Sri Lanka, her family, their culture including the food they ate (curries, shrimp pastes, fruit, fish), her father’s library in their house, her mother’s sari collection, their  vacations, friends and servants. She writes evocatively and I was compelled to keep reading despite the sadness and pain.  The end of the book, seven years after her loss, grants a whiff of hope as she is able finally to recall joyful moments with her missing loved ones in her new home in New York City which has given her “the distance for which I can reach for my family…travel[ing] back and forth to London and Columbo, rediscovering us.” The book was on several “best of 2013” lists and now goes on mine.


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