This is a hard book to read, emotionally, but very well written. It is just over 200 pages long, but seems the right length to tell the story. Deraniyagala describes her experience of the tsunami in Sri Lanka the day after Christmas in 2004, in which she lost her parents, her husband, and her two sons. Any one of those losses would bring someone to their knees. Deraniyagala lives in a state of shock and despair for a long time. She contemplates taking her own life, but her family and friends surround her and care for her. She describes trying to figure out when and how to think of her family and remember their life. She tries to avoid anything that makes her think of them, but that doesn't work because everything she sees is something one of her sons would have commented upon or something she and her husband shared together. Her story is told in chronological order beginning with the tsunami, but the reminiscences of her family life and meeting her husband come nearer to the end of the book when she is once again able to think about those memories.
For me, this book belongs on a shelf with Night by Elie Wiesel, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, and An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken: these comprise the best true books I have read about pain and loss. Wiesel's was personal and also universal -- probably the single most shattering book I have ever read. Deraniyagala's book reminds me more of Didion's book, written after the sudden loss of her husband. Both women describe in sharp painful detail of their confusion and distress.