Books & Review | Sam Goodwin
Updated: Mar 06, 2013 08:24 AM EST

Sonali Deraniyagala's Wave

Sonali Deraniyagala's Wave (Photo : npr.org)

Sonali Deraniyagala lost her family to the tsunami incident that took place Dec. 26, 2004. She narrates the incident in her new book "Wave".

Sonali Deraniyagala was on a vacation with her family in Sri Lanka Dec. 26, 2004, when the tsunami struck, wiping out and killing more than 200,000 people, including her family. After the incident, Deraniyagala moved to New York where she sublet an apartment in Greenwich Village for three months. Five years down the line, she still lives in the same apartment in New York. On the advice of her therapist, who helped her get over the devastating incident, she began writing down everything she remembered about the incident in a memoir. Most of her writing took place in a loft area of her Village apartment.

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"I've done all my writing up here," she says from her home. "And I can only write in New York, and I can only write on the corner of that bed. I guess it's a kind of place of safety for me and I needed to shut everything out. It's a cocoon."

It's taken the author nearly nine years to finally be able to recall the incident calmly. Recalling that disastrous day, Deraniyagala says it was a sunny day with no wind. Her parents were still in their room and her husband was in the shower. She and a friend were watching her two sons play with some toys they had gotten for Christmas. Deraniyagala recalls her friend envying her life and revealing she wanted to start a family too, and the next thing the author heard was the friend screaming, "the sea is coming."

At first, they didn't take the wave to be a threat, but soon realized they had to move out. Deraniyagala and her husband grabbed their two sons and headed to hitch a ride in a jeep. Deraniyagala remembers her husband sitting across her when suddenly she saw a look on his face she had never seen before. And that's the last she remembers about seeing him, because the next thing she remembers was being dispersed.

Deraniyagala also shares her experience of being swept by the wave. She writes in her book, "Am I underwater? It didn't feel like water, but it has to be, I thought. I was being dragged along, and my body was whipping backwards and forwards. I couldn't stop myself. When at times my eyes opened, I couldn't see water. Smoky and gray. That was all I could make out. And my chest. It hurt like it was being pummeled by a great stone."

Deraniyagala said it took her months to get over everything and finally get her life back on track.

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