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.
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.
Pages: 240 pages (paperback)
Rating: 10 out of 10
Source: Purchased from a borders store that was closing in DC
I discovered Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's writing while living in Atlanta. I went to Charis bookstore and asked for a recommendation. The bookseller told me about Mistress of Spices and I was intrigued. I devoured that book and then found myself going through the rest of Divakaruni's books at lightening speed. Since I joined book clubs and started blogging, I have not read anything by her in quite some time. A few weeks ago, I had gone with a coworker to a Borders store near our office which was closing. I felt sad to walk through the aisles and see all the books that had been left behind. Even though I am on a book buying diet, I could not resist purchasing One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I have been looking for a book to dive into which draws me into the story right away and does not make me feel ill at all the terrible things that happen (see Corelli's Mandolin and The Glass Castle)
One Amazing Thing did not disappoint. I love the premise of strangers making it through a scary situation by sharing stories. Part of Divakaruni's genius is how she makes even the simplest characters rich and full as they tell a story of what led them into the agency and has shaped their world view. After each character told his/her story, the other characters react and respond not only to the events, but also reflect on how the story relates to them. I love the way sharing stories was used to build community and create connections.
In addition to feeling like my reading for 2011 is getting back on track, I am also counting this book for the following challenges: