Emmay, January 7, 2011 (view all comments by Emmay)
Beautifully written and thought-provoking novel. Of course, we each bring our own experiences to a book, and it may not resonate the same with each reader. But I found the book quite credible, vivid and touching.
The scenario which brings these people together is uncommon and certainly unusual, but not inconceivable. Having been through situations where people are thrust together(though not as dire, thank goodness), I felt their reactions were plausible.
I loved the book and it still enters my thoughts from time to time, something few novels provoke in me.
Tova, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Tova)
Interesting plot that sets the stage for complex diverse character studies, as well as a vehicle for bringing up values in a unique setting. An ending that is thoughtful and leaves you thinking.
raddog49, June 6, 2010 (view all comments by raddog49)
This is one of those books that is life changing. The author keeps you rooted to your seat throughout as you glimpse peoples lives through their stories of the secrets that change us.
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Lynne Perednia, March 7, 2010 (view all comments by Lynne Perednia)
A disparate group of strangers put their lives on hold in an Indian consulate in an unnamed American city one day, whether seeking travel visas or putting in another dreary day at work. There is nearly a palpable sense of being in a hurry to return to real life.
Until an earthquake hits. And life will never be the same for any of those strangers who are now forced to get to know each other.
Divakaruni gives her characters full rein to run the gamut of emotions and reactions, from panic to heroism to fighting and sneaking a smoke. But it is when one of them, thinking of her college course copy of Chaucer in her pack, proposes that each of them tell a story about one amazing thing that happened in their lives, that this novel comes to life.
The characters and their stories are pleasingly varied. All of them carry at least a tinge of poignancy. Some are especially compelling, perhaps in part because the characters to whom they belong seemed the least likely to be interesting. The little boy who found comfort in numbers, for example, carries an understated emotional wallop precisely because the author does not layer on the pathos with a trowel.
The ending may not satisfy some readers as the present day situation becomes more dire. And many of the characters' stories seem to exist within a vacuum, with little more than a passing glance at their current life.
However, readers who do not require having everything spelled out for them and all the timeline dots connected will find many small treasures in this novel.
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"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"In a soggy treatment of catastrophe and enlightenment, Divakaruni (The Mistress of Spices) traps a group of nine diverse people in the basement of an Indian consulate in an unidentified American city after an earthquake. Two are émigrés who work for the consulate; the others are in the building to apply for visas. With very little food, rising flood water, dwindling oxygen, and no electricity or phone service, the victims fend off panic by taking turns at sharing the central stories of their lives. Oddly, the group spends little time brainstorming ways to escape, even when they run out of food and water, and sections of ceiling collapse around them. They wait in fatalistic resignation and tell their tales. Some are fable-like, with captivating scene-setting and rush-to-moral conclusions, but the most powerful are intimate, such as the revelations an accountant shares about his impoverished childhood with an exhausted mother, her boyfriend, and a beloved kitten. Despite moments of brilliance, this uneven novel, while vigorously plumbing themes of class struggle, disillusionment, and guilt, disappoints with careless and unearned epiphanies." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A storyteller of exquisite lyricism and compassion, Divakaruni weaves a suspenseful, astute, and unforgettable survivor's tale."
by Library Journal,
"Writing with great sensitivity, Divarkaruni presents snapshots that speak volumes about the characters, so unexpectedly drawn together. Highly recommended."
The award-winning author of The Mistress of Spices returns with her latest novel.
by Harper Collins,
"Divakaruni is a brilliant storyteller; she illuminates the world with her artistry; and shakes the reader with her love."
Late afternoon sun sneaks through the windows of a passport and visa office in an unnamed American city. Most customers and even most office workers have come and gone, but nine people remain. A punky teenager with an unexpected gift. An upper-class Caucasian couple whose relationship is disintegrating. A young Muslim-American man struggling with the fallout of 9/11. A graduate student haunted by a question about love. An African-American ex-soldier searching for redemption. A Chinese grandmother with a secret past. And two visa office workers on the verge of an adulterous affair.
When an earthquake rips through the afternoon lull, trapping these nine characters together, their focus first jolts to their collective struggle to survive. There's little food. The office begins to flood. Then, at a moment when the psychological and emotional stress seems nearly too much for them to bear, the young graduate student suggests that each tell a personal tale, "one amazing thing" from their lives, which they have never told anyone before. And as their surprising stories of romance, marriage, family, political upheaval, and self-discovery unfold against the urgency of their life-or-death circumstances, the novel proves the transcendent power of stories and the meaningfulness of human expression itself. From Chitra Divakaruni, author of such finely wrought, bestselling novels as Sister of My Heart, The Palace of Illusions, and The Mistress of Spices, comes her most compelling and transporting story to date. One Amazing Thing is a passionate creation about survival--and about the reasons to survive.
Praise for One Amazing Thing
"The plot of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's new novel could be ripped from the horrifying headlines about Haiti in a strange case of art imitating life. ...One Amazing Thing, which was written well before the Haiti earthquake, is receiving high praise."
"The appeal of these life stories, like that of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, is that they throw the spotlight onto varied lives, each with its own joys and miseries. Together, the stories show how easy it is to divert young lives into unforeseen and restrictive channels, and how hard it is for people to realize their early dreams. Their shared experiences and fears form the frame that holds together this compendium of short stories into an absorbing novel. ...At the end of her novel, her readers are fully engaged in what will happen to those nine people."
"Hauntingly beautiful. ...One Amazing Thing is a page-turner with high drama, elegant writing, and lots of helpful tips for teamwork in a crisis."
"Her fiction is so intimate that it often seems as if cultural context is irrelevant. Her character's dreams and disappointments are paramount... The karmic energy of One Amazing Thing revolves around Divakaruni's gifts as a novelist."
"Masterful storyteller Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni examines such stories in an apropos novel for our times. Her suspenseful tale of nine souls who suddenly don't know if they will live or die is a tribute — on many levels — to hope and survival. But it is also, most successfully, a ringing rebuke to rushes to judgment. It's an adult, literary version of The Breakfast Club, with dire circumstances. 'Hell is other people,' Uma thinks as she looks at one of her fellow distraught victims. But redemption can be other people, too, Uma and the others soon understand. One more amazing thing we've learned from Divakaruni."
"Divakaruni portrays in beautiful prose, haunting characters, and a luminously and ominously developed plot, the universal and individual qualities of the search for meaning in life, as well as the search's timelessness. We see the parallel as soon as Uma does: as in The Canterbury Tales, where Chaucer's characters are pilgrims to a holy site, the visa applicants are also pilgrims, on their way to India. Divakaruni is a beautiful writer, using words as lithely and effortlessly as breathing, and while she breathes, she sings."
"One Amazing Thing collapses the walls dividing characters and cultures; what endures is a chorus of voices in one single room."
--Jhumpa Lahiri, author of Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake
"I was up very late. I read straight through because this is the sort of book that pulls you along. Divakaruni is so adept with her characterizations...I wanted to be in any of the beauty salons described so lovingly. I wanted to eat the bits of food described with such delicacy."
--Louise Erdrich, author of Love Medicine and A Plague of Doves, from her blog at birchbarkbooks.com
"Ingeniously conceived and intelligently written, this novel is a fable for our time. The characters, troubled or shattered by their past, vibrate with life whenever they begin to speak. The book is a fun read from the first page to the last."
--Ha Jin, author of A Free Life and the National Book Award-winning Waiting
"Chitra Divakaruni understands the power of stories to heal us, make us laugh, and comfort us in the most difficult of circumstances. One Amazing Thing is one powerful and beautifully written book. I loved it, and I'm sure that readers everywhere will embrace it too."
--Lisa See, author of Shanghai Girls
Praise for Chitra Divakaruni
"[Her] sentences dazzle; the images she creates are masterful."
--The Los Angeles Times
"Divakaruni beautifully blends the chills of reality with the rich imaginings of fairy tale."
--The Wall Street Journal
"Authentic and complex . . . Sophisticated and compassionate . . . Moving . . . [It is] a vision of what it means to be human, and in that resonance lies this collection's triumph."
--The Washington Post
"Divakaruni's stories will touch everyone who reads them . . . It is her gift of language and her ability to cast sentences of exquisite beauty that make her such a high-performance writer."
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