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Book Review: One Amazing Thing

February 14, 2011

Nine strangers are in the Indian consulate’s office of an American city to apply for visas for their trips to India when an earthquake strikes, leaving them all trapped together. The doorways are blocked, no escape is possible and amid rising water and increasing gas in the air, the sense of doom and panic among the survivors begins to increase. One of the strangers, Uma, an Indian-American woman, who coincidentally was reading The Canterbury Tales as the story opens, suggests that each of the nine tell the rest of the group one amazing thing from their lives. So begins One Amazing Thing.

This was an interesting premise but a very disappointing outcome. I found the stories the survivors share with each other to be stale, sometimes predictable and more often than not cliché ridden and, despite having such in-depth knowledge about each of these nine survivors, I felt like I really knew very little about them.

The author, Chitra Divakaruni, has a very large vocabulary and she isn’t afraid to use it to excess which made reading some of the descriptive passages awkward at times. Also, the author writes the character’s thoughts and rhetorical questions parenthetically which generally has the effect of taking me out of the story altogether. Done once or twice for effect I don’t have a problem, but this technique is used repeatedly on nearly every page. Finally, the ambiguous ending left me feeling more than cheated.

I was attracted to this book by the blurb on the back and I really wanted to enjoy it, but I was very disappointed. The only thing I enjoyed about the book was the small amount of insight into Indian culture I received in the telling.

We learn in One Amazing Thing that we can’t judge a book by its cover. After reading One Amazing Thing I learned that we probably shouldn’t trust the advertising copy on the back of the cover.

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