One Amazing Thing
by Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee

When they are trapped together after an earthquake, nine disparate characters take turns telling "one amazing thing" about his or her life, in a novel by the American Book Award-winning author of The Palace of Illusions. 100,000 first printing.

Chitra Divakaruni is an award-winning and bestselling novelist and poet. She is the author of 14 books in all, including the short story collection The Unknown Errors of Our Lives and the novels Sister of My Heart, The Mistress of Spices, Queen of Dreams, and The Palace of Illusions. Two of her novels have been made into movies. Her writings have appeared in more than 50 magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker. She has also become a frequently sought-after op-ed and NPR commentator regarding how the West perceives Southeast Asia.

After the glorious complexity of The Palace of Illusions (2008), Divakaruni, who also writes for young readers, presents a wise and beautifully refined drama. When an earthquake hits, nine men and women of diverse ages and backgrounds are trapped in an Indian consulate. Cameron, an African American Vietnam vet, takes charge, striving to keep them safe. College student Uma, who brought along The Canterbury Tales to read while waiting for clerk Malathi and her boss Mangalam to process her papers, suggests that they each tell an "important story" from their lives. Their 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, including an older couple, a young Muslim man, and a Chinese Indian grandmother and her granddaughter, 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. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

A diverse group trapped in the aftermath of a disaster shares tales of love, loss and desire.Divakaruni's latest (The Palace of Illusions, 2008, etc.) harkens back to her earlier collections of short stories more than it coalesces as a convincing novel. Seven visa applicants wait for the services of two bureaucrats in the basement-level visa office of an Indian consulate somewhere in America. "It was not uncommon, in this city, to find persons of different races thrown together," Divakaruni writes. "Still, Uma thought, it was like a mini UN summit in here. Whatever were all these people planning to do in India?" Suddenly, a massive earthquake strikes, trapping them in the dark and forcing them to confront each other. An angry young man named Tariq Husein seethes as Cameron Grant, an African-American veteran, assumes leadership of the trapped group. Mr. Pritchett, who had hoped a trip to India would lift his wife's depression, endangers them all by trying to light a cigarette despite a gas leak. Malathi, a clerk at the consulate, stands up to him when he takes away Mrs. Pritchett's medication. Jiang, an elderly Chinese woman injured in the quake, tries to protect her granddaughter Lily. In the midst of their ordeal, Uma, a grad student first glimpsed reading "The Wife of Bath's Tale," comes up with the idea of having each person relate an incident from his or her life. "Everyone has a story," she says. "I don't believe anyone can go through life without encountering at least one amazing thing." The individual tales are engaging, but the mechanical setup and the lack of resolution in the primary narrative make it difficult to fully embrace all that follows.Compassionate stories, many of them inspired, suspended in half of a novel. Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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