Friday, April 10, 2020

Book: Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

Sonali Deraniyagala. 2013. Wave. New York: Knopf.

This memoir tells the story of an economist who lost her husband, her two children, and her parents to the 2004 tsunami. She survived, by chance and by action, hanging on to a tree while the wave rushed back into the sea. The book starts off with the tsunami and then chronicles, in episodic detail, Sonali's gradual (and never complete) reconciliation with her loss and with her life.

The NYT book review has more to say.

I bought the book many years ago, but put off reading it because it has a personal connection: I worked with the author's late husband, the economist Steve Lissenburgh, when I consulted at the Policy Studies Institute (PSI) in London in the late 90s and early 00s, helping them mainly with their evaluations of various bits of the Blair government's New Deal programs, such as this one. Indeed, I had the honor of giving the fourth annual lecture in memorial of Steve organized by the PSI in October of 2008. Michael White, who managed the employment group at PSI prior to Steve taking over (and who recruited me to work with them at a conference organized at Her Majesty's Treasury in the mid-90s), wrote a heartfelt obituary for the Independent.

I am not sure that the notion of "recommended" quite fits for a book like this - not everyone will find this sort of book good pandemic reading. I will say that the the book is moving indeed, both because of the nature of the events it describes but also because  of its combination of a gentle spirit, lush writing, and brutal honesty.

Amazon book page
Barnes and Noble book page

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