The “one amazing thing” in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s One Amazing Thing refers to important, defining moments in the lives of nine people, trapped by an earthquake in the Indian visa application office. To keep their minds off of the rising water level and decreasing oxygen, this group of strangers begins telling stories from their lives.
I think the author did a great job capturing the different voices of the characters, and of bringing such disparate people alive on the page. You could easily tell Lily, the punky Chinese teenager, from Mrs. Pritchett, the older Caucasian woman, and I liked getting a peek into everyone’s heads. Their stories ranged from difficult childhoods to thwarted dreams to hard decisions to betrayal–basically, the events that made them what they are today, and why they needed to go to India. Some of these were very poignant.
I think overall, though, One Amazing Thing could have been a much longer–and therefore, more in-depth–novel. I wanted more details about certain characters’ whose stories were the most compelling for me, like Cameron, Lily, Malathi, and Tariq. It must have been hard juggling nine different characters, and I do give Divakaruni credit for ambitiously telling each one’s story, but sone of them felt like “the Reader’s Digest version,” and left me with a lot of questions when they were done. (Were Tariq’s friends actually terrorists? What was wrong with Lily’s brother?)
I also agree with Jill of Fizzy Thoughts that the ending was a bit lackluster, in a “That’s it??” kind of way. I understand that the important part of the book was seeing these people connect with one another over personal, but universal, experiences–but after getting so emotionally invested in the characters, I was hoping to see them take what they’ve learned about themselves while trapped and change their lives for the better. (Trying not to be spoilery here.)
It did remind me of Bel Canto in a way–so if you liked that, I’m sure you’d enjoy One Amazing Thing. (Truth: I actually preferred this to Bel Canto.)
I won this book as an ARC from Fizzy Thoughts! Thanks!
Bookwanderer Rating: Three and a half stars
Bookwanderer Tagline: Nine people + earthquake + rising tension = stories