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One Amazing Thing
One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Diakaruni
by Chitra Banerjee Diakaruni

An earthquake brings together a wide range of characters in an Indian visa and passport office, characters who otherwise would have only had perhaps a fleeting moment of connection.  trapped together, they fight to survive.  Various racial and ethnic groups are brought together, including an upper class Caucasian couple, a Muslim-American man, and African-American and a Chinese grandmother.   The make-up of the cast of characters appears a little contrived on the surface as if made for popular consumption but this lessens as the author delves more into the individual characters themselves.  The earthquake highlights the struggles of each individual whether it be matters of love or cultural identity.  As time seems to be running out and panic sets in, the trapped tell each other a story, a story that somehow captures a moment and brings them closer to themselves and each other.  The power of storytelling transcends the present moment and yet makes it all the more present and vital.

ONE AMAZING THING combines suspenseful action with a spiritual insight into matters of life and death.  As the characters fight for survival, their passion for living and the crushing disappointments of their lives all come into play.  In an easy-to-read light yet poetic prose, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's words flow with a simplicity that gets to the heart of the issues while leaving enough unsaid to allow the reader's imagination to enter the story.  While one scene flows naturally to the next, the chapter and sub-chapter divisons within the narrative  seem to work at odds with the natural flow of the story.  The breaks do not always correspond to the speaking voice or to specific events.  Quite frankly, the text flows smoothly without all these divisions on account of the author's skill so that at times the divisions seem superfluous or stop the smooth flow that would exist without them.  The ending might not satisfy readers who prefer all questions resolved at the end, especially since the suspenseful plot drives forward towards the end, and yet others, like myself, might find the ending a most satisfying ending all the more so because it respects the almost mystical, spiritual dimension of life opened up by the characters' stories.

ONE AMAZING THING keeps a reader glued to the pages, anxious to find out the fate of the characters but also wanting to never quite reach the ending in hopes of witnessing more revelations in the intimate look into the characters' hearts.  ONE AMAZING THING is not a disaster survival book laden with physical how-to details nor are the fleeting portraits heavy in psychological detail.  Rather, ONE AMAZING THING, like the moment it portrays, is a quick glance at a moment in time, a moment marked by points of spiritual and emotional conflict as the characters struggle to survive.  Easily read within one sitting, the narrative satisfies a desire for a light read that nevertheless touches spirituality or something beyond the everyday reality, a spirituality that is not overly preachy or defined by division.  Part of the charm of this story resides in the empty spaces and details that the author leaves up to the imagination of the reader.

Publisher: Voice (February 2, 2010)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Review Courtesy of Amazon Vine
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