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Sunday, January 29, 2012

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni - BOOK REVIEW

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni
Title:  One Amazing Thing
Author:  Chitra Divakaruni
Publisher:   Hyperion Books
Paperback, 240 pages
ISBN 10:    1401341586
ISBN 13:  9781401341589
The Book Depository / Amazon

Goodreads description:

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.

My Take: 

This novel revolves around nine disparate people trapped together in a visa office after an earthquake, their work to survive until they are rescued, and the tension that comes out when people are worried for their lives.

To break up the tension, Uma, a graduate student, suggests that they each tell an important story from their lives to give them all something to focus on.

THIS is where the story gets interesting.  Although a couple of the stories never get fully told as they are interrupted by shifting of debris, the stories that we DO read give the reader a greater insight into each character.  Because they are so different from each other, each story is unique and some are rather heartbreaking.

The beginning third of the book was almost ho-hum for me.  I didn't feel much connection with the characters, and there was a lot of animosity between a few of the characters that I felt was not fully justified or explained very well.

When the stories started coming, however, I was caught up.  Many of them revolved around love and marriage:  love lost, expectations thwarted, love found.  These glimpses are what made me finally feel for the characters and somewhat redeemed the novel for me, especially those that gave me insight into different cultures.

Worth a read, even if the first part does sort of drag along.  I really would have liked to see more development of character closer to the beginning of the novel, but when I think about it, if you really WERE stuck in an office with a bunch of other people, how much would you know about them in the beginning/


"Please don't be afraid of me," he said.  He wanted to tell them what he'd seen in Mexico, where he'd gone to help after an earthquake in one of his attempts at expiation.  People who had been too impatient and had tried to dig themselves out of the rubble often died as more debris collapsed on them, while people who had stay put - sometimes without food and water for a week or more - were finally, miraculously rescued.

The time and money he had spent planning this trip to India, the tickets he had booked.  Just because here eyes had shone for a moment when she saw the cursed picture.  The words were in his mouth:  If it weren't for tying to take care of you, I wouldn't be stuck down here, bout to die. Everything I worked so hard for brought to zero.

"Everyone has a story," said Uma, relieved that one of them was considering the idea.  "I don't believe anyone can go through life without encountering at least one amazing thing."

Writing:  4 out of 5 stars
Plot:  3 out of 5 stars
Characters: 3 out of 5 stars
Reading Immersion:  3 out 5 stars

BOOK RATING:  3.25 out of 5 stars

BLOGGERS:  Have you reviewed this book? If so, please feel free to leave a link to your review in the comments section; I will also add your link to the body of my review.

About Chitra Divakaruni

BUY IT:  At Amazon, The Book Depository, through the publisher's website,  and through other on-and-off-line booksellers.

One of my listed titles for the 2012 150+ Reading Challenge
One of my listed titles for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2012

 Disclosure:  This is a review for a book in my personal library.


  1. I enjoyed this book --didn't love it, but was glad I read it. Have a great week Julie!

  2. I liked this book for the most part but really was frustrated with the ending. I think I gave it three stars.

  3. http://bybookorbycrook.wordpress.comJanuary 30, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    I have had this book on my book shelf for quite a while. I really need to read it!


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