ONE AMAZING THING (2010)
Late afternoon in an Indian visa office in an unnamed American city. Most customers 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 wildly individual characters together, their focus first jolts to a 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. 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. One Amazing Thing (Hyperion) is a passionate creation about survival—and about the reasons to survive.
AN INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
PRAISE FOR ONE AMAZING THING
Donna Seaman, Booklist: “A wise and beautifully refined drama. . . . The [characters’] tales of heartbreak and revelation are nuanced and riveting as Divakaruni takes fresh measure of the transcendent power of stories and the pilgrimage tradition. True, the nine [characters] are captives of a disaster, but they are also pilgrims of the spirit, seeking “one amazing thing,” affirming that life, for all its pain, is miraculous. A storyteller of exquisite lyricism and compassion, Divakaruni weaves a suspenseful, astute, and unforgettable survivors’ tale.”
Library Journal: “Writing with great sensitivity, Divakaruni presents snapshots that speak volumes about the characters, so unexpectedly drawn together. Highly recommended.”
Maggie Galehouse, Houston Chronicle: “Hauntingly beautiful. . . . One Amazing Thing is a page-turner with high drama, elegant writing, and lots of helpful tips for teamwork in a crisis.
Seattle Times, Ellen Heltzel: “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.”
Jane Ciabattari, NPR, Books We Like: “This storytelling legacy shines brightly in her entrancing new novel, One Amazing Thing… Divakaruni moves effortlessly from one character to another, and across a spectrum of raw feeling: panic; pain; antagonism; selfishness. She reveals intimate details and sensual reactions so vivid you feel as if you’re with each of them in the room. …Trapped strangers are transformed into a chorus of Scheherazades, offering up tales of loss and love, and betrayal and redemption, to illuminate the gathering darkness.”
Amy Canfield, The Miami Herald: “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.”
Rob Neufeld, Asheville Citizen Times: “One Amazing Thing, Divakaruni’s eleventh novel and sixteenth book, is a suspenseful disaster tale and a brilliant showcase of storytelling power. . . .Each story is a revelation (“one amazing thing”) and a salvation. The survivors are able to . . . bridge cultural boundaries with compassion. . . . In addition to being mesmerizing, One Amazing Thing is provocative. I can hardly think of a better book discussion choice.”
Winnepeg Free Press: “Divakaruni’s writing is evocative and engaging, making One Amazing Thing well worth the read…She’s a gifted writer, with a knack for creating compelling characters.”
Carol Memmott, USA Today: “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. The author Ha Jin has called it ‘a fable for our time.’ Elaine Petrocelli of Book Passage in Corte Madera, Calif., says she has always enjoyed Divakaruni’s novels, ‘but this is my favorite so far.’ ”
Nina Sankovich, Huffington Post: “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: the sound of a broom sweeping rhythmically across the floor is likened to “a woman walking down a staircase in a long silk dress”, a story told travels through the brain “glowing and tumbling end of over end, like a meteor in a slow-motion movie clip”, and an asthmatic struggling to breathe has a heart which “fluttered like a snared bird”. Divakaruni is also a writer for whom the construction of plot and character seems effortless, smooth, and holistic.”
Washington Times: “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.”
Mike Shea, Texas Monthly: “One Amazing Thing is a beautiful novel, a tapestry of nine stories from Houston’s Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, whose short fiction earned her an American Book Award in 1996. . . . The backstories that Divakaruni spins are brilliantly inventive windows into unfamiliar territory for the Western reader, such as the Sino-Indian War of 1962 (which sends Jiang, a Chinese Indian woman, into an arranged marriage that lets her escape to America) or India’s social strata (Malathi, a would-be bride in Coimbatore, defies her parents and the caste system by taking a job in the beauty salon where she is sent to be made up for a photo meant to attract potential suitors). For the tellers, the tales provide catharsis—a minute of grace as they pray for rescue. Divakaruni captures the power of those moments to create a passionate, intelligent book that sings with humanity.”
IndiaPost: “Every book of Divakaruni takes us in a new direction. One Amazing Thing, her sixteenth book connects so strongly that together with her nine characters, we are tethered on a raft of emotions as we await the next tremor.”
Arthur Pais, India Abroad: “Chitra Divakaruni’s new novel is a wise and spiritual work that is also amply entertaining and touching.”
Good Times Santa Cruz: “Not only a captivating read but also a testament to the redeeming power of human love and connection.”
Examiner.com: “The individual stories themselves are profound in their revelations about mankind. . . . A beautifully written piece about the significance of humanity. . . . One Amazing Thing lives up to its name.”
Mike Birman, Amazon.com (Amazon top 500 reviewers):
“Through Divakaruni’s creative alchemy we are drawn to the power of
stories to reveal who we were, what we are and what we hope to become.
The author shows us with stunning simplicity and skill that after we die
all that may remain are our stories. And for the solace they offer and
the instruction they bring, these stories need to be told as much as
they need to be heard. . . .
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a writer at home in our prosaic world as well as the more magical world of wonder and infinite possibilities. Though the world that is depicted in this superb novel is recognizably ours, written in lithe, sinewy prose that paints scenes of an almost pictorial immediacy, there is a kind of magic at the margins. . . . . Stories are life and that is ultimately the magic of One Amazing Thing. A very fine novel that rewards multiple readings.”