The 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami: A Personal Perspective

Gold Coast Author Sandra Sweeney tells her story of loss, resilience and survival

The 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami: A Personal Perspective

Book Review

The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami took the lives of more than a quarter of a million people within a matter of hours.

Peter Beattie, who wrote the Foreword to Sandra Sweeney’s book
‘Ripples from the Wave: After the 2004 Tsunami’ accurately describes her as ‘an extraordinary person’. Sandra is most certainly a strong woman.

Sandra lost her son Craig in the 2004 tsunami when he drowned on Phi Phi Island, Thailand. Only nine months before, Craig had married a beautiful young Thai woman, Maliwan, in a traditional Thai ceremony in Thailand. Sandra and her daughter Sheree attended the wedding, which Sandra describes in all its colour.

Craig and Maliwan had been celebrating a late honeymoon on Phi Phi Island and Maliwan was pregnant. When the wave came, she and her unborn child miraculously survived.

I say Sandra is a strong woman because she lost a son, she took on the traditional Thai grandmother role of raising her granddaughter almost single-handedly, and she continues to work full time as a teacher of English as a second language. Sandra and I met around ten years ago, in 2010. She had begun making notes for writing a book only a month or so after the tsunami. Over the years, in between the tasks of a demanding daily life, she would find time to write a few chapters. We would catch up periodically by phone or in person to talk about her book.

While editing and proofreading Sandra’s book, no matter how many times I read it, the same parts always brought tears to my eyes. Sandra is a stoic person by nature, and not given to sentimentality, but her writing is deeply moving. ‘Ripples from the Wave’ is, in fact, a deeply moving and personal account of one woman’s loss after the horrific Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.

‘Ripples from the Wave’ traces three rites of passage in Thailand: Craig’s wedding, his funeral nine months later, and the birth of his and Maliwan’s child. It also shows how Sandra and her daughter navigate their way through immense cultural differences, the funeral being especially difficult for them.

The book is also a celebration of life, and it contains many humorous moments. It delves into the relationship between Sandra and her Thai daughter-in-law Maliwan and shows how, in the interests of raising Demi, the youngest tsunami survivor, the two women overcome huge cultural and language differences.

In summary: a hugely readable and moving book. I’ve spoken to several people who’ve read it and they said they couldn’t put it down.

  • Sandra Sweeney, Ripples from the Wave: After the 2004 Tsunami, 2018, Sandra Sweeney, Australia.
  • 195 pages

Email the author direct to buy her book: [email protected]

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