Books

A Forgotten Survivor by Robin D. Harris - out now

J

ust before 8am on December 26, 2004, an undersea earthquake struck off the Indonesian coast. It triggered a massive tsunami that stretched across the Indian Ocean. Waves up to 30 feet high battered the shorelines of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Maldives and Thailand and claimed the lives of at least 225,000 men, women and children in a dozen countries. In Sri Lanka, where this book is set, the lack of food, clean water and medical supplies contributed to the list of casualties and left entire coastal regions littered with debris, dead bodies and plant-killing salt water.

A Forgotten Survivor by Robin D. Harris is an unflinching debut novel based on real events that were recorded but not reported. It follows the story of Lola, a stressed fashion buyer working in Sri Lanka at the time of the disaster, who watches the horror of the aftermath unfurl: thieves stripping dead bodies of their valuables; and women and children left at the mercy of a patriarchal society rife with sexual violence and gender inequality. Like many natural disasters in developing countries, the Boxing Day tsunami placed women and children in an extraordinarily vulnerable position; five times more women than men were killed (in part due to being encumbered by dresses and jewellery) and they were outnumbered three-to-one by men in the aid camps. A Forgotten Survivor is notable in its refusal to shy away from disturbing facts - from allegations of international companies turning a blind eye to abuse within their workforce to the injustices of a society that reportedly treats women as objects to be bought or sold.