One Amazing Thing, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, is just that: an exquisite jewel of a novel. Divakaruni, the award-winning author and poet (Palace of Illusions, Shadowland), has crafted a novel of deep compassion and hope; one that shatters the boundaries of age, experience, and ethnicity.
The story is deceptively simple: Nine strangers are trapped in an Indian Visa Office by an earthquake. Beset by danger, hunger, fear and pain, they each tell the story of the one amazing thing that has happened to them. Each tale, we come to understand, reveals the secret, defining moment of each life. The urgency of their situation causes each person to at last share their innermost self. To be truly seen, at what may be the end of their own personal story.
As the stories progress, the characters are inexorably forced together. The physical space they share shrinks in proportion to the revelations they share emotionally. Finally, they are stranded together on literal and metaphorical life rafts, clinging to hope
Fascinating stories of passion, injustice, loss, and wonder emerge. Interwoven in each is the story of India; her diverse culture, ancient traditions, and enduring identity. But these are ultimately the stories of everyman and everywoman revealed by the hand of a master craftsman. The beauty, the wonderment, and the yearning are universal. Our choice, we see, is in how we use these moments of transformation.
Divakaruni draws her complex characters with a loving hand. We desperately begin to hope for the deliverance of these people. The novel ends with a stunning twist, one that left me longing for more.
The magic of this book resides in the gifts of compassion the characters share. One Amazing Thing may have defined their pasts, but the present moment they share will define their future.
One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni will be available from Voice Hyperion Books in February 2010.