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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 17 March 2013
This is one of the most beautiful thoughtful books on loss and grief, and survival, that Ive ever read. I so wish that the author had not had to write it. But I think that it was ultimately hopeful, and reflective, and I learned so much from it. I felt a sense of loss too when it was finished, loss of the thoughts of a great mind and spirit. I want to wish the author well, and let her know that her work has meant we can bear witness to her loss, but also share memories of her family with her.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 18 March 2013
I just could not put this down until I had finished it. It was heart breaking but had its funny moments. As a Sri Lankan myself I could identify with all the anecdotes and the quirkiness of the sri lankans. A wonderful book, what an articulate writer and my heart goes out to her.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2013
Reading this book is like intruding on private grief expressed in a diary that you weren't really meant to find. You read it trying to find an expression of what it must be like to lose your whole family in one swoop of fate, and end believing that it's beyond expression. Can you live with it though? Unless you choose not to, what alternative is there but to hope it gets better? Some days are better than others, the book states, but it's a relative emotion. The book reminded me of a quote I once noted down in another autobiography of pain by Mikail Gilmour, "It will never be all right. It will never be all right again". No happy ending, no redemption, no reason, no explanation, just life in the raw. Hard going.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 13 March 2013
I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust and have always been haunted by the question: how do people survive the loss of everyone they have loved? There have been many well-written accounts by people faced with devastating losses but few that analyse every single stage of grief as minutely as does Sonali Deraniyagala, who lost her parents, her two sons and her husband in the 2004 Tsunami. This is a painful book to read. But it is beautifully written, with fine insights not least the final realisation that though the years have deadened the shock, the absence of her closest family goes on expanding.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 December 2013
The author remembers the tsunami in which a 30 foot wave swept her away together with her husband, two children and her parents and only she survived. There are vivid descriptions of the tsunami itself and what it was like to be caught up in it; of the immediate aftermath (numbness, prolonged desire to commit suicide) and of a very gradual and partial recovery in which the dead husband and children and to a degree also the parents are brought, in a way, back to life as the author gradually connects with her memories of her earlier life and with the natural world.

This is a very moving book - very hard to read - but I found also very rewarding.

I note that the author thanks her therapist in the acknowledgements at the back of the book - the book makes perfect sense as it stands - but it did make me think it would be very interesting on another occasion to learn what the therapist had done to help with the process of mourning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 June 2013
I found this book utterly compelling, it is written with such honesty and courage. As the mother of two small sons, I constantly fought the urge to overlay my own experience, my own daily life, with that of Sonali. How would I have coped in the same circumstances, how can one carry on daily life when everything that once made sense has been ripped apart? Even imagining what she went through gives me a chill. Sonali's writing is beautiful, spare and unflinchingly frank. Brutal facts are presented cheek by jowl with gentle recollections and reminiscences of their past family life in London but she resists the urge to be sentimental, just presents facts as they were, as she saw them, not dressed up. Amazingly, although we never know her family alive, they come to life through her words. I feel I know those little boys, her husband Steve, even her parents, though they are more shadowy. Above all, her message is that love endures - the book is also a paeon to appreciating what one has, whilst we still have it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 13 April 2013
This was so hard to read, because in her writing, Sonali Deraniyagala reaches to places that just hurt. She tells this story, with no embellishments, as it happened and the effect it had on her. You just want to reach out and try to hold her hand through the pain. Incredible that someone can have such a profound efffect on the reader.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 April 2015
As somebody who lost three close family in the Tsunami, I was a little apprehensive about reading this. It is a deeply moving and honest account of one woman's grief and tragedy and her brave journey to carry on and live a life which will never ever be the same. Thank you Sonali for putting this into words.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 May 2013
I chose this book because of the magnitude of the Tsunami, the sheer horror of the devastation.
Having been on holiday to Sri Lanka I was interested also to hopefully learn more about the areas
that were affected.
I found Sonali 's account very,very haunting, extremely sad and at times difficult to carry on reading
naturally not able to understand how she felt.
I am so glad I read it even though I will never ever truly appreciate or understand her feelings
at loosing all the dear members of her family. The mental torture she suffered is unimaginable,
I found it a privilage to have read her heart breaking story and hope she has ,at last found
some peace in her heart enabling her to 'move on'.
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A terribly, overwhelmingly sad book. As the narrative leaps into the actual tsunami in the first few pages, I thought 'I don't know this family yet; there should have been a bit more lead-in to the people involved.'
But the reader gets to know them in the heartbreaking pages that follow, when the author discovers she is the sole survivor - her parents, husband and two little sons all lost. After suicidal months, she returns to her home and everywhere finds traces and memories of those lost sons:
'I recently opened Vik's cricket bag. I'd avoided doing this for four and something years...In that bag were a helmet and kneepads and sweat-soiled guards and yellowing white gloves. And amid all that a single leaf. a small dark brown leaf with a pointed tip, I couldn't say what kind, dried up and crisp but still intact...Where did this come from? Our garden? Or maybe Highgate Wood. Steve and Vik would play in the cricket nets there while I kept watch on Mal as he climbed a pyramid of logs...
Beautifully written. As other reviewers have commented, one doesn't necessarily feel terribly warmly towards the author, who is unfailingly honest in her portrayal of herself, and who makes no mention of the thousands of others who were bereaved. But with such a terrible loss, I doubt anyone would have much emotion left to spare.
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