Memoir seems to be the theme of this month's Best Books of the Month list, which boasts an amazing collection of brave and deeply personal explorations. In fact, brave is the buzz word of the month, appearing in a few of our editors' reviews for March, including: Sheryl Sandberg's bold and inspiring Lean In; Christina Parravani's "brave, raw, and ultimately uplifting" Her; and Emily Rapp's "magnificently written" The Still Point of the Turning World.
But the book that tops our list is the one that left many of us shaking our heads in awe, Sonali
Deraniyagala's incredible Wave.
Some books unfold with obvious menace, suggesting,
"This won't end well." Wave declares
on page one--"the ocean looked a little closer"--this won't even start well. But I'm urging you, dear reader, not to look away.
In an unblinking act of storytelling, Deraniyagala ruthlessly chronicles the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that
horrifically snatched from her all that mattered. Throughout this fierce and
furious book, I kept wondering how someone who lost so much could write about
it with such power, economy and grace. At first, she shrieks and grieves
openly, angrily; for years she remains stunned and staggered, shamed by "the
outlandish truth of me." Then, slowly, she allows herself to remember, sharing
vivid glimpses of her past.
hear, and smell two rowdy little boys, their brotherly scuffling, their muddy
shoes and grass stains. By confronting and recreating moments that make us
laugh and weep, we accept their absence and root for the author to give up.
As Deraniyagala's unthinkable loss becomes
"distilled," she finds herself "no longer cradled by shock." She survives. And she does so by
allowing herself to hurt, and to remember. By keeping them close, she keeps their memory alive.
Difficult to describe, tricky to recommend, this is a bold and wondrous
book. In a wounded voice that manages to
convey the snide, sarcastic, funny, and fatalistic personality that survives
beneath the pain, Deraniyagala slowly pieces together the elements that
represent the life--the lives--she lost. And she brings them back. For us, for
her, for them. So brave, so beautiful, in these pages Deraniyagala's family is
brilliantly alive. And so is she.