Teju Cole in The New Yorker:

Deraniyagala-wave-580“Squid marinated in lemongrass and lime and chili flakes. Slices of salty haloumi cheese and lamb chops and sausages from Nicos, our local Greek Cypriot butcher…. We’d marinate a leg of lamb for two days in a mix of yogurt, almonds, pistachios, lots of spices, mint, and green chilies…. We’d buy greengages in August. Often they were perfect, not too yielding, but not unripe.”

The book in which the passage above appears contains other passages that speak of times in the garden, trips taken with family, children learning from their parents and vice versa, and moments of laughter and joy. In most books, these evocations of summertime ease and sweet familial conviviality would be a pleasure. In Sonali Deraniyagala’s memoir, “Wave,” they are among the most difficult things I’ve ever read. The reason: “Wave” is about Deraniyagala’s husband, her parents, and her two sons, aged seven and five, all of whom died in a single morning in December, 2004, when the tsunami hit the resort where they were holidaying in Sri Lanka. Deraniyagala herself was found spinning around in circles and almost deranged in a swirl of mud after the water receded. “Wave” is her account of that day, and of the years that followed.

“Wave” is really two stories in one. The second story is about remembering the life of a family when they were happy. The first is about the stunned horror of a woman who lost, in one moment, her past, present, and future. Deraniyagala was raised in Sri Lanka, and trained as an economist at Cambridge and Oxford. She married her college sweetheart, the economist Stephen Lissenburgh, and together they had two preternaturally intelligent and happy boys. Her friend Orlantha, who was with them at Yala National Park in Sri Lanka, said to her that morning, “What you guys have is a dream.” But the next thing Orlantha said was “Oh my God, the sea’s coming in.” The dream had become a nightmare so unspeakable, so incommensurate with typical human experience, that Deraniyagala would later wonder what she had done to doom herself to such a fate. Steve was dead, Ma and Da were dead, as were Vik and Malli. Orlantha, too: dead. “Why else have I become this shocking story, this wild statistical outlier?” Deraniyagala thinks to herself. “I speculated that I must have been a mass murderer in a previous life, I was paying for that now.”

More here.