This memoir by a survivor of the 2004 Asian tsunami is a great yawp of grief. On the morning of the tsunami, Sonali Deraniyagala was on Sri Lanka's southern coast with her parents, husband and two young children. She alone survived. What emerges in Wave is the story of that raw edge of grief — which presents often and early as rage — eventually muted to a dim thrumming of continual mourning. It is, though, not as wild and disorganized as this description might sound. Even though Deraniyagala moves back and forth through her life in trying to explain what she's lost, she has a remarkable sense of narrative that keeps things well in hand. That makes Wave much like the two memoirs of grief by Joan Didion — but sharper, angrier, as clear as the gorgeous morning when Deraniyagala lost the entire world. — Kel Munger
Life After Life: A Novel
Reagan Arthur Books, $27.99/hardcover
The premise of Life After Life, British novelist Kate Atkinson's ninth book, might lead some readers to think it's "science fiction." It is, but only in the largest sense. While Atkinson never invokes the apparatus of the multiple universes theory, she does use it as a starting point for her protagonist, Ursula Todd, who is born and dies seconds later, and is also born and gives a healthy wail. Starting with Todd's 1910 birth — and death, and birth — the novel follows her lives and deaths through a multiplicity of possibilities, including the possibility of averting some of the worst events of the 20th century. It is, ultimately, a discussion of fate and the individual, which makes this speculative fiction that, like the best work of Margaret Atwood, is also philosophical and deeply unsettling. — Kel Munger
Rape Is Rape
Jody Raphael, J.D.
Chicago Review Press, $18.95/paperback
It's tempting to suggest that, given the recent discussion surrounding the conviction of two Ohio teenagers for sexually assaulting a girl who was too drunk to stand up, then taking and posting pictures, that this book is especially timely. Unfortunately, this book would be timely no matter when it was published. Jody Raphael, an attorney specializing in violence against women, takes an evidence-based approach to indicting our culture for facilitating rape by creating a cocoon of denial about both incidence and severity of sexual assault. The bottom line — that acquaintances commit most rapes and that society only treats "stranger rape" as "legitimate," to borrow a phrase — makes it clear that we still have a long way to go before women are able to live their lives with the same freedom so routine that most men take it for granted. — Kel Munger