Monday, January 11, 2010

5 - One Amazing Thing; Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

One Amazing Thing; Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

In an unnamed city in the US, an earthquake traps a small diverse group of people in the basement of the Indian Consulate. Among the trapped are Consulate employees Mr. Mangolam and Malathi, Uma, an Indian/American grad student,  Mr and Mrs Pritchett, an upper class Caucasian couple, Tariq, a radical young Muslim, Cameron, an African American war veteran, Jiang an elderly Chinese woman who grew up in India and her Goth grand daughter Lilly, most of whom are waiting for visa for travel to India.

While these nine individuals are waiting and hoping to be rescued, anxiety levels rise as water seeps into the basement, and oxygen levels have worsened. To try and calm the group, Uma suggests that they form a circle and take turns telling "one amazing thing" about themselves, so that they can get to know each other. Hesitant at first, the group, beginning with Jiang, begins to share very personal details about their lives.

MY THOUGHTS: I liked this book for several reasons, but it was not perfect. The writing is beautiful, and there were some passages that were really touching and made an impact on me:
  • p. 90..."We think that that terrible events have made us into stone. But love slips in like a chisel---and suddenly it is an ax, breaking us into pieces from the inside."
  • p. 108..."Uma wanted to say something about the treacherous nature of memory, how one painful event can overpower the many good experiences that came before."
  • p. 179....."But after I saw the couple in the cafe, a great dissatisfaction washed over me. I remember the old man tilting his head attentively, listening to his wife make her menu choice. Her eyes had shone through her thick glasses as she watched him cut up their desserts for sharing. There was nothing like that tenderness in my life. And without it, what use were the things I'd built my life around ?"
  • (PLEASE NOTE: These quotes come from a review copy and may differ in the actual book)
I addition to the beautiful writing, I loved the execution of this story, however, in real life under these circumstances, I doubt the stories would have flowed so beautifully.  The other problem that I had with this short novel (just 220 pages) was the fact that it was just too short of a book for the individuals to tell their stories in enough depth for me.  I wanted to know more about these individuals and the stories of their lives.  I was a bit disappointed in the way the book ended as well, but still  I found this novel to be a memorable and worthwhile read. (Rating - 4/5 stars)

(Thanks to Shelf Awareness and Hyperion Voice for providing this review copy).

16 comments:

  1. Great review. You convinced me to read it.

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  2. Those are wonderful quotes you've shared!

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  3. This sounds like it's worth reading, even though it has a few flaws. Thanks for your review.

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  4. I have this but haven't read it yet, because I keep feeling like I should reread Bel Canto for comparative purposes, and then it turns it into a whole big project! But I'll get to it - I love the premise!

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  5. Nice review Diane. This does sound like the type of story that needed more than a few hundred pages. Still I'm glad you enjoyed it. It does sound good.

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  6. I just love the premise of the book and it sounds like it is worthwhile, aside from a few minor quibbles. Good review!

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  7. What an interesting premise! I have been meaning to read something by Chitra for so long now... Don't know if this would be a good one to start with but I'll just have to add it to my list!

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  8. Great comments. I have this one and I'm anxious to read it now. Thanks.

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  9. Diane,
    I am reading this right now and enjoying it very much. Although it never says the setting, there were several hints that it was a West Coast city on a bay so it sounded a lot like San Francisco. Great review!

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  10. Maudeen, That is what I was thinking San Francisco, knew if was West Coast. ENJOY

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  11. The first thing that attracted me to this book was, of course, its cover. But now that you've shared some of the details of the novel in your review, I know I have to get a copy. It sounds very deep and thoughtful.

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  12. Great review. The quote you posted have definitely gotten me intrigued. I'm going to have to add this to my TBR pile!

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  13. You and I are on the same page on this one! It is too short and the ending is too abrupt. If the author had taken more time with the stories, it would have been a much better novel.

    -Amy
    Life by Candlelight

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  14. Diane -
    You know I need to give the publisher credit as well. I noted you did. Not just to Shelf Awareness.
    Thanks!

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  15. I have been waiting for this review! I am sorry that the book wasn't perfect, and it does indeed sound l a little short, but I think I am still going to add it to my list. I really liked all the other books I have read by this author, so I am just going to take a chance with it. Great review! The quotes you provided were wonderful~!

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  16. I received the ARC for this one too and am happy to see that you found it to be a worthwhile read. I read another book by this author and enjoyed it, so I'm thinking I like this one, too.

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