Reading time: 3 – 4 minutes
Title: One Amazing Thing
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Synopsis: (Taken from Amazon.com)
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.
There are a few things that make this (would-be) amazing book, a little less amazing. Maybe it was because I had an ARC copy, so I would like to think there have been some additions/changes made — but I was unhappy with the ending. For one, it just ended. No resolution. Nothing. It just — ended. It left me wondering, “Okay — what?”
How did these characters grow? What happened when they left? DID they leave the disaster? It wasn’t quite clear. And for that in particular, it drives my rating down a notch. It would be one thing if this book was “Book 1″ of a series, but from what I can tell, it’s a stand alone book.
Another issue that brought the rating down was character voice. Each character was so different in history but so similiar in the way they talked and the way they told their stories. Plus one minute they are telling the story as a third person, and then the next, first person. Which was it? I couldn’t tell.
The concept behind the book, and the mini stories themselves are enough to take you from page 1 to the very end. You can tell that it really wants to reach down into your very soul and teach you a little more about yourself and about society. Interesting, definitely. Finished? Hardly.
One Amazing Thing has the right idea, but needs a little help getting there.