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One Amazing Thing Paperback – Deckle Edge, February 2, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1 edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401340997
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401340995
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,008,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From 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. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

After the glorious complexity of The Palace of Illusions (2008), Divakaruni, who also writes for young readers, presents a wise and beautifully refined drama. When an earthquake hits, nine men and women of diverse ages and backgrounds are trapped in an Indian consulate. Cameron, an African American Vietnam vet, takes charge, striving to keep them safe. College student Uma, who brought along The Canterbury Tales to read while waiting for clerk Malathi and her boss Mangalam to process her papers, suggests that they each tell an “important story” from their lives. Their tales of heartbreak and revelation are nuanced and riveting as Divakaruni takes fresh measure of the transcendent power of stories and the pilgrimage tradition. True, the nine, including an older couple, a young Muslim man, and a Chinese Indian grandmother and her granddaughter, are captives of a disaster, but they are also pilgrims of the spirit, seeking “one amazing thing” affirming that life, for all its pain, is miraculous. A storyteller of exquisite lyricism and compassion, Divakaruni weaves a suspenseful, astute, and unforgettable survivors’ tale. --Donna Seaman

More About the Author

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's acclaimed novels for adults include the bestselling The Mistress of Spices, soon to be a motion picture. Her previous book for young readers, The Conch Bearer, was a Booklist Editors' Choice, Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and is a 2005 Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee. She teaches creative writing at the University of Houston and lives with her husband and two sons in Sugarland, Texas.

Customer Reviews

What isn't predictable is the unexpected ending of the book.
K. L. Cotugno
To pass the time, each person is invited to tell a story, a story about "one amazing thing" that happened in their lives.
Daniel Murphy
I thought the characters were all well developed and their stories were unique and captivating.
Chopper Dude

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Murphy on December 24, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Though I'm a long time fan of literature from authors born in India, One Amazing Thing is the first book from Chitra Divakaruni that I've had the pleasure of reading. It was a pleasure making the acquaintance!

The story of One Amazing Thing (no spoilers here, it's in the product description) revolves around a very promising plot device: a heterogeneous group of people that are in the Indian consulate of an American city are trapped in the basement of the building by a huge earthquake. Most of the trapped people have trips planned to India, two are consulate employees. While the building slowly crumbles, and the basement begins to flood, survival becomes an issue. To pass the time, each person is invited to tell a story, a story about "one amazing thing" that happened in their lives.

Divakauruni, with a Ph.D in English literature from the University of California at Berkeley, and currently teaching creative writing at the University of Houston, is a master of her craft. Her work has been recognized with significant awards, and has been published in Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker. Divakaruni's talent is easily visible in One Amazing Thing, both in the careful creation of the setting, and in the development of the characters.

Divakaruni did not have life handed to her on a silver platter, and the experiences she gained by having to work at a wide variety of jobs to support the cost of her education, as well as those absorbed from her multi-cultural upbringing, may well be the source of the depth she is able to achieve with each of her characters. Some authors have a message for the reader that the characters become slave to.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Michael Fishman on February 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
Nine strangers are in the Indian consulate's office of an American city to apply for visas for their trips to India when an earthquake strikes, leaving them all trapped together. The doorways are blocked, no escape is possible and amid rising water and increasing gas in the air, the sense of doom and panic among the survivors begins to increase. One of the strangers, Uma, an Indian-American woman, who coincidentally was reading The Canterbury Tales as the story opens, suggests that each of the nine tell the rest of the group one amazing thing from their lives. So begins One Amazing Thing.

This was an interesting premise but a very disappointing outcome. I found the stories the survivors share with each other to be stale, sometimes predictable and more often than not cliché ridden and, despite having such in-depth knowledge about each of these nine survivors, I felt like I really knew very little about them.

The author, Chitra Divakaruni, has a very large vocabulary and she isn't afraid to use it to excess which made reading some of the descriptive passages awkward at times. Also, the author writes the character's thoughts and rhetorical questions parenthetically which generally has the effect of taking me out of the story altogether. Done once or twice for effect I don't have a problem, but this technique is used repeatedly on nearly every page. Finally, the ambiguous ending left me feeling more than cheated.

I was attracted to this book by the blurb on the back and I really wanted to enjoy it, but I was very disappointed. The only thing I enjoyed about the book was the small amount of insight into Indian culture I received in the telling.

We learn in One Amazing Thing that we can't judge a book by its cover. After reading One Amazing Thing I learned that we probably shouldn't trust the advertising copy on the back of the cover.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By My2Cents TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In an unnamed city in the US, an earthquake traps a small diverse group of people in the basement of the Indian Consulate. Among the trapped are Consulate employees Mr. Mangolam and Malathi, Uma, an Indian/American grad student, Mr and Mrs Pritchett, an upper class Caucasian couple, Tariq, a radical young Muslim, Cameron, an African American war veteran, Jiang an elderly Chinese woman who grew up in India and her Goth grand daughter Lilly, most of whom are waiting for visa for travel to India.

While these nine individuals are waiting and hoping to be rescued, anxiety levels rise as water seeps into the basement, and oxygen levels have worsened. To try and calm the group, Uma suggests that they form a circle and take turns telling "one amazing thing" about themselves, so that they can get to know each other. Hesitant at first, the group, beginning with Jiang, begins to share very personal details about their lives.

MY THOUGHTS: I liked this book for several reasons, but it was not perfect. The writing is beautiful, and there were some passages that were really touching and made an impact on me:

* p. 90..."We think that that terrible events have made us into stone. But love slips in like a chisel---and suddenly it is an ax, breaking us into pieces from the inside."
* p. 108..."Uma wanted to say something about the treacherous nature of memory, how one painful event can overpower the many good experiences that came before."
* p. 179....."But after I saw the couple in the cafe, a great dissatisfaction washed over me. I remember the old man tilting his head attentively, listening to his wife make her menu choice. Her eyes had shone through her thick glasses as she watched him cut up their desserts for sharing.
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