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One Amazing Thing

by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Voice
  • Publishing date: 02/02/2010
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9781401340995
  • ISBN: 1401340997

Synopsis

"Divakaruni is a brilliant storyteller; she illuminates the world with her artistry; and shakes the reader with her love."
--Junot Diaz

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.

Praise for One Amazing Thing

"The plot of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's new novel could be ripped from the horrifying headlines about Haiti in a strange case of art imitating life. ...One Amazing Thing, which was written well before the Haiti earthquake, is receiving high praise."
--USA Today

"The appeal of these life stories, like that of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, is that they throw the spotlight onto varied lives, each with its own joys and miseries. Together, the stories show how easy it is to divert young lives into unforeseen and restrictive channels, and how hard it is for people to realize their early dreams. Their shared experiences and fears form the frame that holds together this compendium of short stories into an absorbing novel. ...At the end of her novel, her readers are fully engaged in what will happen to those nine people."
--Washington Post

"Hauntingly beautiful. ...One Amazing Thing is a page-turner with high drama, elegant writing, and lots of helpful tips for teamwork in a crisis."
--Houston Chronicle

"Her fiction is so intimate that it often seems as if cultural context is irrelevant. Her character's dreams and disappointments are paramount... The karmic energy of One Amazing Thing revolves around Divakaruni's gifts as a novelist."
--Seattle Times

"Masterful storyteller Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni examines such stories in an apropos novel for our times. Her suspenseful tale of nine souls who suddenly don't know if they will live or die is a tribute -- on many levels -- to hope and survival. But it is also, most successfully, a ringing rebuke to rushes to judgment. It's an adult, literary version of The Breakfast Club, with dire circumstances. 'Hell is other people,' Uma thinks as she looks at one of her fellow distraught victims. But redemption can be other people, too, Uma and the others soon understand. One more amazing thing we've learned from Divakaruni."
--Miami Herald

"Divakaruni portrays in beautiful prose, haunting characters, and a luminously and ominously developed plot, the universal and individual qualities of the search for meaning in life, as well as the search's timelessness. We see the parallel as soon as Uma does: as in The Canterbury Tales, where Chaucer's characters are pilgrims to a holy site, the visa applicants are also pilgrims, on their way to India. Divakaruni is a beautiful writer, using words as lithely and effortlessly as breathing, and while she breathes, she sings."
--Huffington Post

"One Amazing Thing collapses the walls dividing characters and cultures; what endures is a chorus of voices in one single room."
--Jhumpa Lahiri, author of Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake

"I was up very late. I read straight through because this is the sort of book that pulls you along. Divakaruni is so adept with her characterizations...I wanted to be in any of the beauty salons described so lovingly. I wanted to eat the bits of food described with such delicacy."
--Louise Erdrich, author of Love Medicine and A Plague of Doves, from her blog at birchbarkbooks.com

"Ingeniously conceived and intelligently written, this novel is a fable for our time. The characters, troubled or shattered by their past, vibrate with life whenever they begin to speak. The book is a fun read from the first page to the last."
--Ha Jin, author of A Free Life and the National Book Award-winning Waiting

"Chitra Divakaruni understands the power of stories to heal us, make us laugh, and comfort us in the most difficult of circumstances. One Amazing Thing is one powerful and beautifully written book. I loved it, and I'm sure that readers everywhere will embrace it too."
--Lisa See, author of Shanghai Girls

Praise for Chitra Divakaruni

"[Her] sentences dazzle; the images she creates are masterful."
--The Los Angeles Times

"Divakaruni beautifully blends the chills of reality with the rich imaginings of fairy tale."
--The Wall Street Journal

"Authentic and complex . . . Sophisticated and compassionate . . . Moving . . . [It is] a vision of what it means to be human, and in that resonance lies this collection's triumph."
--The Washington Post

"Divakaruni's stories will touch everyone who reads them . . . It is her gift of language and her ability to cast sentences of exquisite beauty that make her such a high-performance writer."
--USA Today


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  • What is the One Amazing thing?
    From Amazon

    I found this book a little slow to begin with. But as it progressed and each character started to tell their One Amazing Thing, I became very interested in the book and couldn't put it down. However, the ending was rather abrupt and left me wanting more of the story. I also found it hard to keep track of some of the characters in the book...I felt there were too many to keep the story interesting.

  • A Moving Testament to the Power of Story
    From Amazon

    Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's new novel, ONE AMAZING THING, has been getting a lot of publicity lately. Unfortunately, it's the kind of publicity that an author would rarely court, even if it results in high-profile interviews, glossy profiles and an uptick in book sales. The recent Haitian earthquake, which has increased global attention on this poor and, in many ways, isolated country, has also brought increased attention to Divakaruni's book, which is set in the immediate wake of a devastating earthquake. As people watch on television scenes of desperation and unlikely rescues in Haiti, they may have a tendency to imagine what life is like following such a harrowing natural disaster, particularly for those desperate individuals trapped below acres of rubble, waiting for a rescue that might never arrive in time. ONE AMAZING THING is, on the simplest level, this kind of imagining fleshed out into a powerful novel, one that will resonate with everyone who has witnessed this recent earthquake. Of course, ONE AMAZING THING is far more than a simple survival story. It is the culmination of many of the author's long-standing themes, as well as a contemporary fable about the walls that separate all of us --- and about the powerful connections that can be discovered when those walls come crashing down. The novel begins innocuously enough: a young woman, Uma, sits in the waiting room of the Indian passport office in an American city that sounds very much like San Francisco. She is impatient and entertains herself by observing the other people in the waiting room, each of whom must have his or her own reason for intending to visit India. "It was like a mini UN summit in here," thinks Uma. And that's when the earthquake strikes. When the dust settles, there are injuries large and small, and people's true natures come to the surface as they often do in desperate situations. One man, Cameron, an African American war veteran, takes immediate charge, but his brusque, take-charge manner rubs some of the other strangers the wrong way, particularly the young Muslim Tariq, who some view with suspicion. Tariq has his own reasons for being suspicious and defensive, but, as with the other members of the assorted company, his full story remains a mystery until, in the wake of a violent outburst triggered by fear and near-panic, Uma has a brainstorm. She has been reading Chaucer's THE CANTERBURY TALES, in which an assorted band of pilgrims tell each other tales --- bawdy, insightful, entertaining --- to pass the time and form connections. Why not do the same sort of thing, both to stave off despair and to find common ground? "Everyone has a story," Uma tells the group. "I don't believe anyone can go through life without encountering at least one amazing thing." And so the survivors, in turn, tell each other their "one amazing thing" and discover much about each other --- and themselves --- in the process. ONE AMAZING THING is the kind of novel that will stick in readers' heads for a long time. Whether because it changes their perception and understanding of contemporary India and of minority groups in our own country, or because it inspires introspection --- encouraging people to identify that "one amazing thing" in their own lives --- Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's latest effort is a moving testament to the power of story.

  • A reminder to cherish the amazing things in your life
    From Amazon

    I loved the way this book takes nine individual lives and intermixes them flawlessly. In a tragedy such as the earthquake these characters suffer through, it is hard to remember the good things for which life is worth living. Although there is a fair amount of sadness, unfulfilled desires and lost love in this novel, it left me with a positive afterglow. Highly recommended.

  • One Amazing Thing
    From Amazon

    At first glance, One Amazing Thing seems to be simply a collection of short stories using one character's narratives as "bookends"(beginning and end) thus making it a composite whole. The simplicity of the plot gradually reveals depths that leads the reader to ponder about nuances. These nuances portray conflicts at several levels: individual, inter-personal, societal and global. The fabric of the story has multiple hues where the author weaves intricate patterns with her uncanny perception of the human mind and behavior. Yet, in conclusion might I add that the message is almost one of quiet, philosophic acceptance of the world around us! I enjoyed reading it.

  • Perhaps Better Titled "Revealing Secrets to Strangers"
    From Amazon

    The name of the author might not easily roll off your tongue, but stories certainly roll easily off the tongue of the author. One Amazing thing is the story of a group of strangers trapped together in a building collapsed by an earthquake. They decide to pass the time telling their most life-shaping stories to each other. I thought from the title of the book that this was going to be a book where everyone told one "amazing" thing from their life, but the characters mainly tell their deepest, darkest secrets. Most of these secrets are what led them to be in this office together in the first place, applying for a visa to go to India. Perhaps, later, if they survive, the story they tell of their survival together in this earthquake would be their true "one amazing thing". This book is thought-provoking enough and titled in such a way that I wouldn't be surprised if it were to become an Oprah book club pick at some point. I haven't read one of those types of books in a while and often cringe thinking of reading a book that becomes hyped in such a way. But for the sake of this talented author, I hope the book gets the fame it deserves.

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