Title: One Amazing Thing
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
First Released: February 2, 2010
No. of Pages: 240
Synopsis (Courtesy of Amazon): “Late afternoon sun sneaks through the windows of a passport and visa office in an unnamed American city. 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.”
Comments and Critique: I finished this book the day after the news about the Haiti earthquake hit the airwaves. This true-life event made the situation faced by the nine characters within the book that much more realistic and dangerous. One never knows what one will face in life, and these characters hammer that point home from the first moment of introduction.
There is a lot of action in this book, even though it does not appear so on the surface. The main characters do nothing but sit around for the majority of the novel. The beauty of the story is the fact that the action lies in the minds and hearts of each survivor, from their initial impressions of their fellow human beings to their individual stories and motivation for going to India to their shift in feelings towards each other by the end. It is a very intimate type of action.
The individual stories themselves are profound in their revelations about mankind. That grandmotherly-type who always insists on following the rules may not have felt that way before. The housewife who has it all may in fact be missing something essential. Some of the stories were predictable, while others were completely shocking in what the character experienced. And yet all showed that to judge a person based on initial impressions is not only dangerous but ignorant because a person is more than just an outwardly appearance. In a way, Ms. Divakaruni is emphasizing the idea of empathy and showcasing how difficult it is to to achieve when we do not take the time to get to know one another. Yet empathy is what brings mankind together.
Ms. Divakaruni gives the reader much food for thought as one survivor after another shares their most amazing story. The seriousness of their situation sitting in the basement of an earthquake-damaged building takes a backseat to these stories, which appears to be the point. Life is defined by how we each react in times of crisis and emotional upheaval, and the stories shared prove that.
This is one of those books where each reader will take something just a bit different away from reading it. Some might not like the disjointed feeling of the overall narrative as each character shares his or her story. Personally, I feel that the earthquake is just a plot device to contain each character and the backdrop in which each person shares their innermost secret with the others. Overall, it is a beautifully written piece about the significance of humanity.
This tiny book contains quite a bit between its covers. From the danger of first impressions to the realization that we are all connected in this world, One Amazing Thing lives up to its name. Thank you to Hyperion Books for my Advanced Reading Copy. In addition, this counts towards my Rainbow Reading Challenge, my 100+ Reading Challenge, the Random Reading Challenge and my Read n’ Review Challenge.
This book begs the question, what is your one amazing thing? Would you be willing to share it with others? How do you think others would perceive you after you share it with them? What is stopping you from sharing it?
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