One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Title: One Amazing Thing
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Genre: Contemporary fiction, multicultural fiction
Publisher: Hyperion Voice, 2010
Source: Audiobook from the library

9 strangers wait in a visa office, preparing for trips to India. A massive earthquake hits, trapping them in the basement office. While at first their emotions and anger runs high, after finding some food they decide to spend their captive time sharing an amazing story from their lives. These stories bring the diverse group together and illustrate lessons learned about life.

I thought this simple, quiet little book was lovely. I have heard it criticized as unrealistic  (From Amazon: "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."). However, I found the stories from each of the character's lives to be moving and illustrative of what it means to be human. 

The framework of the story, being stuck in the basement during the earthquake, was at times slow-moving and dragging, but the stories from each character were luminous (admittedly some more than others). Each of the stories was about love in some element, whether that be romantic, filial, parental, or for a cherished pet. For me, the most moving stories were those of Jiang and Lily - Jiang because of the mingled sweetness and sorrow of her love story and Lily because I could relate to the frustration of trying to be the best and finding that struggle unsatisfying. The stories fit together as the last story is told, weaving the lessons each character has learned into one over-arching moral - the reason we live life is to experience "one amazing thing" - something to take our breath away and imprint itself effortlessly in memory. 

While this book was not necessarily earth-shaking despite the event that brought the characters together, it was sweet and at times touching. This is the perfect book for a rainy day, and may even inspire a bit of soul-searching.

4 stars

Warnings: some references to drugs, a little language


  1. Thank you for the review, I've had this one on my TBR shelf for quite some time and I hesitate each time I consider it. But, now I'll move it up the list

  2. Sounds like it would made a great independent movie. Also, the edition you chose to picture has a beautiful cover.


  3. @Helen - I quite enjoyed it and hope you do as well!

    @Asheley - Since reading that comment I've been picturing it as an indie movie and it would be great! Maybe someday someone will pick it out.

  4. This sounds really good! Although I think that the not trying to find supplies thing that the Amazon reviewer mentioned would bug me a bit too, hopefully I'd be captivated enough to let that slide :-)

  5. I'm so happy you liked this one! It was one of my favorite books last year, and I have had a couple of Divakaruni's other titles on my TBR list ever since.

  6. @Sarah - Haha, yeah they looked around a little, but one of the characters basically says, "If you open the door you will die" so they don't rustle around too much. It wasn't super realistic in that sense but it was really good.

    @Erin - I want to read some of her other books as well! From the reviews I've read it sounds like this wasn't her best, so if I enjoyed this one I imagine I would LOVE her others.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...