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Wave Reading Group Guide

1. In the first chapter of the book the reader is hurtled swiftly and shockingly into the formless chaos unleashed by the wave. What is the nature of Deraniyagalas prose that brings the reader into the moment? 2. Deraniyagalas is a comprehensive and unflinching account of her grief, and she doesnt hold back in admitting her true feelings, even when they are less than flattering. Did her no-hold-barred honesty surprise you? 3. The writers heartbreaking and sudden isolation is palpable, especially during the period right after the tradedy despite being surrounded by friends and family. Even later, when she has begun to process her grief, she keeps to herself, afraid to burden others by telling her story. What are the things that ultimately enable her to connect with people again? 4. In the initial period following her loss of husband, young boys, and parents Deraniyagala cant find the hope to go on, and she talks at length about her suicidal thoughts and self-destructive behaviours. Do you think there was a specific point where she decided she could, or even wanted to, survive? 5. One of the first images in the book, in the brief moments of happiness before the tsunami hits, is of a pair of white-bellied sea eagles nesting by the lagoon in Yala, birds that Vikram was fascinated by. These same birds reappear later in the memoir, now proud parents to a pair of eaglets, and so do a number of other birds, chirping outside darkened bedrooms, fluttering at windows and in gardens. What do you think these birds symbolize for the author? 6. Deraniyagala is not afraid to reveal the many ways in which her grief caused her to act out, to behave in ways that she never would have considered before. In one of the most compelling sections, she describes tormenting the Dutch family who has moved into her childhood home in Colombo, trying to drive them away. Can you imagine yourself acting out in this way in Deraniyagalas state? 7. For a long while after the tragedy, she cannot lay eyes on anything that reminds her of her family, but at some point she becomes obsessed with the traces of history and memory embedded in everyday objects, and they begin to function almost like talismans for her. How does Deraniyagala navigate this attraction to and fear of the concrete evidence of her former life? 8. In the commonly-accepted model of grief, there are five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance they may not occur in this order, but some combination of these stages tends to structure our

experience of working through trauma and loss. How do you think these various stages are reflected in Deraniyagalas journey, or does she show us that grief has no model? 10. After she loses her family, she cant bring herself to return to the house in London for four years, but once she finally does, she finds unexpected comfort there. How does she describe this experience? 11. The experience of survivors guilt the shame and remorse an individual may feel after surviving an ordeal that others did not survive is well documented in other tragic circumstances. In what ways and at what moments does Deraniyagala express this? 12. One of the books strengths is how richly the authors voice reflects her shifting interior world. Compare the following two passages and discuss how Deraniyagalas language communicates the full spectrum of her experience at different moments in her journey: "Someone suggested I take a sleeping pill. I refused the pill. If I sleep now I will forget. I will forget what happened. I will wake believing everything is fine. I will reach for Steve, I will wait for my boys. Then I will remember. And that will be too awful. That I must not risk." (p.39) It used to startle me. The sudden realization of not having them, of being alone here in New York. Id find myself gasping violently as I stood outside my apartment building in the West Village. I am here because they are gone? That was when their absence, as well as their realness, was wavering and suspect. Its different now. I know it is true that they are not here. An unfathomable truth, but maybe I am more accustomed to it. (pp. 24041) 14. In the acknowledgments, Deraniyagala thanks her therapist for enabling her to write the book. Why do you think she chose not to speak directly about her experience of therapy in the book? 16. In the final pages of the book she tells a simple yet heartbreaking anecdote about Malli referring to her as Mummy Lissenburgh, rather than by her real name. In happier times she would react in mock outrage to her childrens notion that she had no identity apart from them. How is she, near the close of teh book, responding to this memory? 17. Does the book end on a redemptive note? 18. The book has garnered international praise for the beauty, simplicity and power of its writing, especially notable given that Deraniyagala is trained as an economist and previously had no experience as a narrative writer. Has the book helped you to come to terms with or re-evaluate losses in your own life? 20. What do you think is Waves most important or enduring message to its readers?