Review: One Amazing Thing

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

Second Opinions:
Fizzy Thoughts
Bibliophile by the Sea


11 Responses to “Review: One Amazing Thing”

  1. 1 nomadreader (Carrie) March 29, 2010 at 8:15 am

    I’m really looking forward to this one! I’m hoping to read it during the read-a-thon because it is a shorter book. I’m glad you enjoyed it, despite a few misgivings. Thanks!

  2. 3 Mari (Bookworm with a View) March 29, 2010 at 8:31 am

    I have this book and am excited to read it – thanks for your review, I will lower my expectations a bit.

    • 4 tarynwanderer March 29, 2010 at 9:42 am

      It’s one of those books that is very good, but if it was just a little longer, it would be plain great!

  3. 5 softdrink March 29, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Yes! The stories shine, but the rest does fall flat. And I’ve started Bel Canto twice and never managed to get into it…that one just never grabbed me.

    • 6 tarynwanderer March 29, 2010 at 2:00 pm

      I feel like this is an unpopular opinion…but I actively disliked Bel Canto! The fact that this book reminded me of it, but I still enjoyed One Amazing Thing, actually makes me think I should give it a higher star rating. 🙂

      Thanks again for the giveaway!

  4. 7 Lisa March 29, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Mari was kind enought to share this one with me. I loved Bel Canto so this one really does appeal! I suppose it does say something for a book when you actually wish it were longer–so often I’m left wondering why the book was so long.

    • 8 tarynwanderer March 29, 2010 at 2:01 pm

      Haha, true! I don’t know if I’ve ever actually wished for a book to be longer, before reading this one! It was a good palate cleanser after my last read, Forver, which is insanely long.

      Hope you’ll enjoy this one!

  5. 9 diane March 29, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Great review. I did like the writing in this one. I hope to read more of her books.

  6. 10 Jennifer @ Mrs. Q: Book Addict March 30, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    I’ve been wanting to read this one. It looks like something I would enjoy. Thanks for the heads up about the ending.

  7. 11 Colleen April 1, 2010 at 12:14 am

    This book sounds interesting but I am afraid I will feel the same way as I sometimes do with short stories – I want more about each character than can be put into a short story.

    I still may read it – the premise is interesting.

    Thanks for the review

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