Friday, February 12, 2010

One Amazing Thing

I just finished Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's One Amazing Thing. I have to say that I am a little unsatisfied...

The premise was intriguing...nine people in an Indian visa and passport office when an earthquake hits and they can't get out. Amid injuries and their deteriorating situation, they each tell "one amazing thing" from their lives.

When I read the title as one AMAZING thing, I guess I expected that what they shared would be great, or good things in their lives. That was not the case. Each of them shared pivotal moments, and often the background leading up to those moments, including one woman's decision to try to commit suicide. It felt pretty misnamed to me. One IMPORTANT thing, maybe, or one illuminating moment.

Also, the author did not have the characters tell their stories in the first person. Most of them were told in third person, except for the one (if there could be said to be one in the cast of nine) main character, which felt a little distant to me, and not as powerful as I think it would have been had the characters been allowed to speak in their own voices. Just my opinion.

Each of the stories were compelling, however, and I liked how most of the stories seem to relate to why they were in the passport and visa office, that their intent to go to India, or their resulting career within the passport and visa office seemed to be culminations of their lives, or results of each of these one "amazing" things. So I liked that. The characters were quite well drawn, even in this rather short book (220 pages).

I remember liking Divakaruni's Mistress of Spices and Queen of Dreams more than this, though these characters and their situations were almost haunting.

To sum it up...I felt a little misled by the title, and I would have liked to have the characters tell their stories in their own voices. It was a little hard to keep track of whose story was being told as it was written. At the same time, the stories and characters were compelling and intriguing. An interesting read.

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