These last (I hope) wintry days, I want to hunker down and hibernate. Call me when the daffodils are in bloom and all the last chunks of snow have melted. I’ll be reading. While not able to hide out under blankets by the fire all day, I have been reading quite a bit. And books I love so much, I must tell you about them. Last week was Ruth Ozeki’s new novel and this week, an amazing memoir.
The thought of losing a child is too awful to contemplate – but worse yet – your entire family? Unbearable! But survivors live on. It seems remarkable that the impossible weight of such sorrow can be carried, that one day, the bereaved again feel some pleasure in the warmth of the sun, can smile. Miraculous. And true.
There is the woman who lost her children and parents in the Christmas fire in Stamford a few years ago who I’ve written about before here. The anguish seems unbearable and yet, she bears it.
What about being on vacation and having your entire family swept away in a wave and somehow, although you have been swallowed by that same wave, you survive? That’s just too much, isn’t it? Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala is that terrible true story. Breathtaking in tragedy, and in beauty. It seems impossible. Yet Deraniyagala, who lost her husband, two young sons and her parents in the tidal wave that hit Sri Lanka in 2004, has created something beautiful out of that terrifying story.
Beyond the incredible scope of the facts of being hammered by a terrifying surge of ocean, her recollection, her rendering, is stunning. We are swept away with the author by the wave that continues to drown her in unspeakable, maddening grief. She holds the reader in the vice grip of her memories.
Deraniyagala did not want to live without her beautiful boys and her husband and only the vigilance of her family in Sri Lanka prevented her from ending her life. Finally, she does what, in the flash of the second we might dare to imagine: she carries on. Cheryl Strayed (author of the brilliant memoir, Wild ) gives details and a fine review of Wave here in today’s Sunday New York Time’s Book Review.
Wave is deceptively slight, a tiny book with a simple black cover. Inside is a diamond exquisitely carved from the author’s rage, her heartbreak – but most of all, her fierce and beautiful love. A love that lives on, lucky for us, with her.