Whatever I try to say about Wave, the British economist Sonali Derananiyagala's memoir of tragedy, grief and tenderness, doesn't seem right.
The 2004 tsunami that took her family as they holidayed on the Sri Lankan seacoast was enormously lethal and utterly indiscriminate. Her own loss is brutal, dizzying, particular and huge — two sons, husband, parents, close friend, gone. There is no one to blame, nothing to fight, nothing to fix.
The book is is a deep well of loneliness. It is also a spring of beautiful, frank and observant writing. And it's a record of strength.
Over and over she savours, from the place of horror and tenderness that she inhabits, Home. Coltrane is on the stereo. Something is roasting for dinner: a gorgeous and garlicky scent. The kids are rampaging, her husband joking. There is sunlight in the garden, and clouds of insects. A hedge is "swift with finches." Later, when they are all gone, she is moved by grandeur: wide snowy spaces, breaching whales.
We spoke at her publisher's office. She has a lovely low voice and speaks quickly. She is charming and self-deprecating and very clear and firm when she speaks of "holding" her people to her.