Diane's Reviews > One Amazing Thing

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
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's review
Jan 11, 2010

really liked it
Read in January, 2010

n an unnamed city in the US, an earthquake traps a small diverse group of people in the basement of the Indian Consulate. Among the trapped are Consulate employees Mr. Mangolam and Malathi, Uma, an Indian/American grad student, Mr and Mrs Pritchett, an upper class Caucasian couple, Tariq, a radical young Muslim, Cameron, an African American war veteran, Jiang an elderly Chinese woman who grew up in India and her Goth grand daughter Lilly, most of whom are waiting for visa for travel to India.

While these nine individuals are waiting and hoping to be rescued, anxiety levels rise as water seeps into the basement, and oxygen levels have worsened. To try and calm the group, Uma suggests that they form a circle and take turns telling "one amazing thing" about themselves, so that they can get to know each other. Hesitant at first, the group, beginning with Jiang, begins to share very personal details about their lives.

MY THOUGHTS: I liked this book for several reasons, but it was not perfect. The writing is beautiful, and there were some passages that really touching and made an impact with me:

* p. 90..."We think that that terrible events have made us into stone. But love slips in like a chisel---and suddenly it is an ax, breaking us into pieces from the inside."
* p. 108..."Uma wanted to say something about the treacherous nature of memory, how one painful event can overpower the many good experiences that came before."
* p. 179....."But after I saw the couple in the cafe, a great dissatisfaction washed over me. I remember the old man tilting his head attentively, listening to his wife make her menu choice. Her eyes had shone through her thick glasses as she watched him cut up their desserts for sharing. There was nothing like that tenderness in my life. And without it, what use were the things I'd built my life around ?"
* (PLEASE NOTE: These quotes come from a review copy and may differ in the actual book)

I addition to the beautiful writing, I loved the execution of this story, however, in real life under these circumstances, I doubt the stories would have flowed so beautifully. The other problem that I had with this short novel (just 220 pages) was the fact that it was just too short of a book for the individuals to tell their stories in enough depth for me. I wanted to know more about these individuals and the stories of their lives. I was a bit disappointed in the way the book ended as well, but still I found this novel to be a memorable and worthwhile read. (Rating - 4/5 stars)
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Drusy Excellent review of One Amazing Thing and I agree that the characters were great, but the book left too many loose ends for it to satisfy me.

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