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One of The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of the YearOn the morning of December 26, 2004, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala lost her parents, her husband, and her two...
One of The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of the YearOn the morning of December 26, 2004, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala lost her parents, her husband, and her two...
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  • One of The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of the Year

    On the morning of December 26, 2004, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala lost her parents, her husband, and her two young sons in the tsunami she miraculously survived. In this brave and searingly frank memoir, she describes those first horrifying moments and her long journey since. She has written an engrossing, unsentimental, beautifully poised account: as she struggles through the first months following the tragedy, furiously clenched against a reality that she cannot face and cannot deny; and then, over the ensuing years, as she emerges reluctantly, slowly allowing her memory to take her back through the rich and joyous life she's mourning, from her family's home in London, to the birth of her children, to the year she met her English husband at Cambridge, to her childhood in Colombo; all the while learning the difficult balance between the almost unbearable reminders of her loss and the need to keep her family, somehow, still alive within her.



    From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpts-
  • Chapter Two


    Someone had removed the brass plate with my father's name on it from the gray front wall. It had his name etched in black italics. I sat in the passenger seat of my friend Mary--Anne's car, my eyes clinging to the holes in the wall where that brass plate was once nailed.

    This had been my parents' home in Colombo for some thirty--five years, and my childhood home. For my sons it was their home in Sri Lanka. They were giddy with excitement when we visited every summer and Christmas. Vik took his first steps here, and Malli, when younger, called the house "Sri Lanka." And in our last year, 2004, when Steve and I had sabbaticals from our jobs and the four of us spent nine months in Colombo until September, this house was the hub of our children's lives.

    This was where we were to return to on the afternoon of the twenty--sixth of December. My mother had already given Saroja, our cook, the menu for dinner. This was where they didn't come back to. Now, six months after the wave, I dared to set eyes on this house.

    I was wary as I sat in Mary--Anne's car, which was parked by our front wall. I didn't want to look around. I was afraid of seeing too much. But I couldn't help myself, I peeked.

    Apart for the now nameless wall, the outside of the house had not changed. The tall iron gates still had spikes on top to keep burglars out. The rail on the balcony was white and safe. The mango tree I was parked under was the same mango tree that gave me an allergic reaction when it flowered, that sickly tree, dark blotches on its leaves. I noticed some small black stones on the driveway, and I remembered. Vik would juggle with these stones when he waited out here for the New Lanka Caterers van to come by selling kimbula paan---sugarcoated bread rolls shaped as crocodiles.

    It was a humid, sticky afternoon, and Mary--Anne rolled down the car windows. From its perch on a nearby telephone post, a bulbul trilled. And I recalled the pair of red--vented bulbuls that nested in the lamp that hung in the car porch, just over the front wall. In the hollow of the glass lampshade, there would be a nest built with dried twigs and leaves and even a green drinking straw. The boys were spellbound by the arrival of fidgety chicks, still part covered in pale red shell. They watched the first flutter from that lamp many times, shooing off the mob of crows that rallied on the wall waiting for an unready chick to drop to the ground. Now I could see the two of them, placing a chair under the lamp to stand on and get a better look. Shoving each other off that chair. My turn now. I wanna see the baby bird. Get off.

    A phone rang indoors. It made me shiver. It was the same phone, the same ring. From my father's study on the other side of this wall, the phone kept ringing, no one picked it up. Now I could hear my father push back his chair to go tell my mother that it is her sister calling, again. I could hear him open the door of his study. A bunch of keys always dangled on that door. They tapped against the door's glass panel when it was opened or shut. I could hear them jingle.

    In the past months, I'd been unable to focus on the death of my parents. I'd held back thoughts of them, so utterly bewildered was I by the loss of my boys and Steve. Now, as I lingered outside this house, my parents emerged, a little.

    Then I saw through the branches of the mango tree that the windows of the bedroom upstairs were closed. That was my bedroom when I was a child. Then Vik and Malli slept there when we visited. Getting them to bed in that room took forever. They'd call to my mother to plead for yet another fizzy drink, and she'd gladly oblige. They'd...

About the Author-
  • Sonali Deraniyagala teaches in the Department of Economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She is currently a visiting research scholar at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, New York, working on issues of economic development, including post-disaster recovery.

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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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