The Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

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Sonali Deraniyagala is a Sri Lankan who studied, worked, married and lived in England. An economist by profession, she married Steve Lissonburgh – a research professor and had two sons – Vickram and Malli. In 2004 the Lissonburghs came to Sri Lanka on holiday. On 26th December they were caught in the devastating tsunami which swept over southern part of Sri Lanka. They were in a hotel in Yala which was overrun by the fateful tidal wave. Sonali lost her husband, her two young sons and her parents. She was herself badly injured but survived. For a long time, she could not accept the truth of her loss and attempted several times to kill herself. But her watchful relations prevented her from harming herself. After about three years, she went to her home in London where objects used by her husband and sons and memory persuaded her to accept the truth of her loss. Sonali now lives in New York and works as a visiting lecturer at the University of Colombia. Wave is her memoir, recording the events of the fateful December 26th. It brings back her pain and agony. It is a living testimony of the horror of the tsunami and of human suffering and endurance. 

The extract takes the reader from the sudden, unexpected awesome sighting of the tsunami to the moment of her consciousness after the vehicle in which she and others were trying to flee overturned and she was left battered and alone. What she witnessed at the beginning was the ‘white curl of a big wave’. The narrative is a second by second observation and report of the horror created by an undersea quake near the Achan Island close to Indonesia which killed 230,000 people.