It is the day after Christmas. An accomplished academic is decompressing in a Sri Lankan coastal paradise with her husband, her two boys, and a friend, when someone notices an ominous wave outside their hotel window. In an instant, the party is out the door, running for their lives. They jump into a Jeep, which races to outpace the pursuing tide. Within moments, the Jeep fills with water, then is knocked onto its side. Water engulfs. Water pounds. Finally, water recedes. The professor emerges dazed, bruised, half-naked. Alive, but utterly alone.
Gripping scenario, that, the stuff of popcorn dreams. But this is life’s waking nightmare as it transpired for Sonali Deraniyagala in 2004, when a 9.1 magnitude earthquake triggered the Indian Ocean tsunami that took the lives of her husband, Steve, her 7- and 5-year-old sons, Vikram and Malli, and her parents, along with some 230,000 others in 14 countries.