is a primer on desolation and remembrance. Sonali Deraniyagala's hypnotic and wrenching account of receiving and surviving a near-lethal blow to the spirit is also a beautiful memorial to the husband, sons, and parents the author lost to the December 26, 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka.
Deraniyagala, staying with her family in a seafront hotel, begins with the dreamlike appearance of the wave, "...not receding or dissolving...rushing past the conifers and coming closer to our room..." She calls to her husband, and they grab their boys and run. The family crowds into a jeep while Deraniyagala reassures herself that her parents, still inside the hotel, will be safe, even imagining her father, his pants rolled up, navigating the puddles:
"The water was rising now, filling the jeep...Steve and I lifted the boys as high as we could. Steve...
Beyond the Book
is not a linear account of the tsunami, and because the author's stark focus is internal, the disaster and events in the months and years that followed, are often hazy. Because of this, it's worth taking a look at the magnitude and nature of the tsunami the author survived.
A tsunami is a series of giant waves caused either by an earthquake or a volcanic eruption under the sea. Either of these phenomena leads to water displacement which in turn churns large quantities of water into massive waves. A tsunami is not just one wave but a series of walls of water minutes or even up to an hour apart.
The 2004 tsunami, which caused widespread destruction, was triggered by a massive earthquake of magnitude 9.0 just off the coast of the Indonesian island of...