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One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni‘s One Amazing Thing is brilliant in its ability to capture reader’s attention and hold it throughout the narrative as the points of view change and characters share a life-changing moment.  Divakaruni’s writing places readers in the room with her characters and traps them there, making the terror of their impending doom real.  Each character is at the visa office seeking papers to travel back to India when something happens and causes the building to partially collapse upon them.

“I am Cameron, he said to himself.  With the words, the world as it was formed around him:  piles of rubble, shapes that might be broken furniture.  Some of the shapes moaned.  The voices — no, it was only one voice — fell into an inexorable rhythm, repeating a name over and over.”  (Page 11)

Uma is among the first of the characters introduced and she’s a college student who enjoys observing others and creating stories for them, which is why she suggests that each of the survivors — in an unknown disaster — tells the group about one amazing moment that changed their lives.  Many of the stories are heartbreaking, but all of them serve as a basis of understanding.  They create a place from which these different people, with their various prejudices and perspectives brought together by circumstances beyond their control, can begin to accept one another.

“Farah.  She had entered Tariq’s life innocuously, the way a letter opener slides under the flap of an envelope, cutting through things that had been glued shut, spilling secret contents.  Her name was like a yearning poet”s sigh, but even Tariq was forced to admit that it didn’t match the rest of her.”  (Page 30)

Book clubs will have a lot to discuss, including what makes life worthwhile to what moments in life would you revisit if you were trapped.  Imagine seeing one amazing thing before you die.  Then recall your memories.  Yes, you have seen one amazing thing though it may have seemed ordinary at the time, but it becomes extraordinary to you.  Divakaruni’s prose is frank and her characters are dynamic and flawed.  One Amazing Thing is just that.

Thanks to Divakaruni for sending me a review copy of her novel.

***I also appreciated that One Amazing Thing is printed on Certified Fiber Sourcing as part of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.***

About the Author:

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author and poet. Her themes include women, immigration, the South Asian experience, history, myth, magic and celebrating diversity.

She writes both for adults and children. Her books have been translated into 20 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Russian and Japanese. Two novels, The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart, have been made into films. Her short stories, Arranged Marriage, won an American Book Award. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Houston.

This is my 3rd book for the 2010 South Asian Author Reading Challenge.

This is my 34th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

This is my 9th book for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge.

  • I do like wrapped up endings but also think this book sounds amazing, so I plan to give it a try.

  • I am a big fan of Divakaruni and have read several of her books. This one sounds very good, and I have been reading a lot of positive reviews of it all over the place. I think the idea behind the book is a great one, and I can’t wait to add this one to my collection. You wrote a wonderful review and I am glad to hear that you enjoyed the book so much!!
    zibilee´s last blog post ..Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok – 304 pgs

    • I’m glad to hear that there are other great books by this author.

  • This sounds like a wonderful read. I loved the excerpt you quoted.
    Belle´s last blog post ..Alison Dare, “Live”: Alison Dare vs. The Halogen Light Monster

    • Thanks for stopping by. There were so many passages I wanted to quote.

  • It’s OK to have everything wrapped up, I guess, but the writing better be good. I’d prefer with a few loose threads personally. I had read some reviews that indicated this book was a bit emotionally manipulative and contrived, which really scared me away. Your review has given me pause…maybe it deserves a chance.
    Sandy´s last blog post ..Garden Spells – Sarah Addison Allen (audio)

    • I wouldn’t call it manipulative really. I just enjoyed the stories for what they were, and I guess I really was just the target audience. I have a hard time thinking that predictable and manipulative are the same.

  • Thanks for the great review Serena. I don’t always need neat and tidy endings because it is nice to leave some things to the imagination. Sounds like one I would really enjoy.
    Jo-Jo´s last blog post ..Wondrous Words Wednesday-June 16

    • Jo-Jo: I think you would enjoy this book. It is really well written.

  • Beth Hoffman

    I really enjoyed reading your review! The book sounds fascinating.

    • If you read it, let me know. I really enjoyed it.

  • I’m glad to read this review because most of them have not been as positive. I like her as a writer and have this book, but have been holding off. I feel better now moving it up in my TBR pile! :–)
    rhapsodyinbooks´s last blog post ..June 16 –All about Bloomsday

    • I purposely didn’t read other reviews when I read this, and I really had forgotten what it was supposed to be about. In a lot of ways, I think that made my experience better. I also thought a lot about Satre’s No Exit when I was reading this, though I’m not sure what parallels I would draw there really other than the being trapped in the same room bit.

  • This one sounds really good. I was wondering what it was about when I saw that you were reading it. Glad you liked it.
    Anna´s last blog post ..Welcome to My New Home!

    • I really enjoyed it. It was another of the best books I’ve read this year, but people who like wrapped up endings probably won’t like it.

      • I’m okay with more ambiguous endings, as long as I’m not left scratching my head.
        Anna´s last blog post ..Welcome to My New Home!

        • This ending is open. Your perspective on life will likely determine how you think it turns out for them.