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One Amazing Thing Hardcover – February 2, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 197 customer reviews

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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.)
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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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Voice; 1st edition (February 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401340997
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401340995
  • ASIN: B003YDXD5E
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (197 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,228,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback
One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a smattering of short stories within the context of a larger story. Basically an earth quake hits some town in California, so I think nine people are trapped in the Indian Consulate office. These people are all panicing and unhappy until Uma, a grad student who reads awesome books like The Canterbury Tales comes up with the idea to have all who are trapped share one amazing story from their lives.

The premise sounds rather simple, but I felt these short stories provided more insight and character development than some novels I've read. If you had to pick one amazing thing from your life to share with someone, I would think you would share something which is truly representative of the type of person you are. I mean, there is the type of thing you would consider amazing, I'm sure we all have different ideas of what is amazing. Would you chose something small? Or something big?

I enjoyed the diverse cast of characters. There was Cameron, the African-American who had a fabulous story about why he wanted to visit India. Mangalam, the boss of the consulate who has an interesting reason to be in America. Lily, the Chinese-American teenager and her grandmother - I think I loved Lily's story the most. Tariq - a young man strong in his Islamic beliefs. Mr. and Mrs. Pritchett - the only white characters, Mr. Pritchett's story literally made my eyes water. I know you probably expect each character's story to have a common thread, but they don't. Each story shared offers a glimpse into the life of a character which left me wanting more than just the single look.

The writing style was gorgeous. For example, this quote "When I Was A Child,' Jiang began, 'I lived inside a secret." Doesn't that just leave you wanting more?
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