New Maine Times Book Review: Day of the Wave

Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2012 in Culture

New Maine Times Book Review: Day of the Wave


by Gina Hamilton

84 pages

Turning Tide Cottage Press, 2011

ISBN 978-0-615-55875-2

reviewed by LC Van Savage

Unless we’ve experienced a horror in our lifetimes, we really can’t possibly begin to understand the depth of it, the raw fear and pain.  And sometimes we hear ourselves actually saying, “Oh I understand. That must have been really terrible. How awful,” and then we go on to speak of other things, unable to delve any deeper, not wanting to touch or know about it, or to feel the hurt.

Did we who live so far away, do that when that tsunami hit in Indonesia in 2004?  I suspect we did. I know I did.  Our minds just could not get around all that indescribable horror, the water, the screams, the begging for help, the smashing, splintering, tearing sounds, the stench and blood, even when we saw films of it.

Gina Hamilton, the editor of the New Maine Times,  has written a book about that horrific time and in spite of all we saw and read in the news and imagined in our bad dreams, she’s made that terrible time into a gentle, bittersweet story for ages 9-12, called “The Day of the Wave.”  Hamilton has used her considerable writing skills to tell us a remarkable story.

The girl’s name was Merpati, a dearly loved 12 year old daughter of her hard working Mami and Bapa, sister to little one year old Kade.  Her Mami made beautiful Batik fabrics for rich ladies, while her Bapi fished for shrimp and other sea creatures to sell, and for his family to eat. Collecting many rupiah in a day was important to the small family. They knew they would never be wealthy but they would be happy and well fed.  And best of all, together.

On that day in 2004 in Indonesia, Merpati’s beloved father sailed away to get his fish, while Merpati stayed to help her mother take the batik to the market, and buy the family's weekly vegetables and fruits.

It was only a small ground shake at the start, but the people in the marketplace were used to that and no one panicked.  This earthquake however, didn’t end. It rumbled louder and harder with each passing second. Merpati, shopping for her family, was shoved under a table by a lady who minutes before had sold her candy.

 Eventually the quake stopped and Merpati went outside to  devastation she’d never seen, hearing screams she’d never heard. Animals and bleeding people were running everywhere. Merpati picked up a screaming baby from the arms of his dead mother and ran toward her own waiting mother and sister.

And then the tide went out and the people ran to the now empty ocean, thrilled that they could scoop up fish and shrimp and crabs easily.  While she and her mother were shopping for new fabric in a darkened shop, the wave hit, and Merpati and the tiny baby went under, the baby on her hip, Kade on her Mami’s hip and they disappeared from each other’s sight. 

Hamilton then takes the reader on Merpati’s long journey to try to find her parents and sister across devastated terrain, dead people scattered everywhere.  She carries the baby whom she’s now named Santoso which means “peaceful.”  She figures out ways to feed and comfort him, but she’s only twelve. Well-meaning people try to take him away from her but she won’t give him up.  Her struggle is hard, her journey long. She wants to find her family and dreads finding Santoso’s family because she’s come to love him so dearly and wants to keep him.  Her journey is long and arduous, but she’s helped along the way by caring, good people. 

 Please do yourself a big favor and purchase and read this wonderful book of such deep sadness, sweet joy, terror, hunger, thirst, sounds, smells and unspeakable destruction.  Hamilton has given all readers a chance to maybe understand about the horrors of tsunami, at least a little, but only a little.  To really know, one has to have lived the experience. This 84 page, powerful book will cause you to weep and smile, to learn, and yes, to hurt.  Read it.

"The Day of the Wave" is available from Amazon both in softcover and kindle.

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