A woman on a business trip in Sri Lanka survives a tsunami only to discover the horrors that women can face after a natural disaster in this ambitious debut novel.
On Christmas morning, Lola awakens in her Sri Lankan hotel room to find her world turned upside down—literally. Water rises as she finds her female co-worker, Shey, and they escape the hotel in the wake of a tsunami. They scramble up a tree only to be harassed by a group of men, and they find shelter on the roof of the hotel. In the aftermath, they speculate about what happened to another co-worker, Nick, who Lola says deserved to die, and Ama, a factory worker whom they’re desperate to find. A monk leads the pair to a temple with dozens of others, where they receive water and meet Dr. Brent Rogers, a charming man from Washington, D.C., who wants to help. But the longer they stay at the temple, the less safe Lola feels. Her boss, Richard, appears unharmed in an SUV and drives them all back to the factory, where Lola was assigned to buy fabric. Richard assumes that Lola and Nick are lovers, but Lola denies this, telling him that Nick had raped Ama and that she aims to help Ama prove it. As the days wear on, Shey takes a job at the camp and Lola continues to search for Nick and Ama, eventually finding out a secret. The story unfolds rapidly, propelled along by the emergencies at hand. However, its excessive detail quickly overwhelms the plot. The most distracting element is the two-dimensional, superficial Lola; at one point, for example, she risks her and Shey’s lives in an attempt to grab her own expensive watch from debris. Overall, the story mainly relates her actions instead of her emotions. The Nick-and-Ama plot could have been compelling, but the tsunami and the chaos that follows make it cumbersome. Although the novel apparently aims to show how women lack protection in refugee camps, it makes very little of a scene of nonconsensual sex between Dr. Rogers and Lola. The book’s saving grace, though, is its strong conclusion, which weaves Shey’s story into a satisfying ending.
An action-packed story with good intentions but too many loose ends.