Wave: Surviving Enormous Loss and Grief After the 2004 Tsunami

Sonali Deraniyagala's memoir Wave is a harrowing account of losing her parents, husband, and two young sons when the tsunami struck Sri Lanka on December 26, 2004. Unflinching, beautifully written, and very powerful, the book is about how she's grappled with her enormous grief. Wave was the Leonard Lopate Show Book Club’s February selection.


Deraniyagala remembered what happened the morning the tsunami came. She and her family and some friends were vacationing on Sri Lanka's southeast coast. “I was at the door of my hotel room, talking to a friend and she looked behind me and she said ‘Oh, my god, the sea’s coming in.’”

She and her husband ran out of their room with their sons. They saw a Jeep with a driver and they jumped in and drove off, but soon the car was in water, suddenly floating, and it rolled over, flinging Deraniyagala into the water. Her account of getting swept away is breathtaking. She explained what it was like to write about it: “I partly wrote about it to try and understand what happened, because being in that water was so bewildering, it was such chaos.”

Writing was part of Deraniyagala's healing process, a way to cope with overwhelming loss. “I didn’t set out to write a book, I set out to write for myself to try and understand what happened to me," she said. "In the face of this kind of sudden and impossible trauma, my reaction was to try and distance myself, or kind of shut away my family, to not feel them or think about them, to rip away all details of them. I began to write really to bring them close. Because my method of dealing with it, of shutting them away, was also very painful. I wrote really to gather the threads of my life and our life to bring them close and that process continues all the time.”