Title: One Amazing Thing
Writers : Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
My Rating: 2 on 5
This book is set in an Indian visa office in a random American city where some people find themselves trapped in the building after an earthquake hits the city. The group is a mixture of age and race and the people struggle for survival. To pass away the time while they wait for the rescue team to arrive, they start narrating stories from their past about ‘one amazing thing’ about their life which they have never told anyone before.
There is a failed love story between a Chinese woman and an Indian woman, an old couple who are as good as divorced but still living under a roof, a young girl from India who wants to make it big, a Muslim boy who wants to revolt against the post-9/11 harassment. A good mix of characters and interesting stories from their past lives, but the book fails to make its point. As a reader, I never felt the difficult situation they are in: no food, no water, no hope of escape.
At this point, the book seemed similar to one of the stories in Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ short stories collection. This story was about a couple who grow apart after the miscarriage of their first baby and spill their guts during the ‘story session’ which they start to kill time during power cuts. The plot is similar, but the affect is way too different. While Lahiri’s was a short story which lives on for a shorter period, Divakaruni’s is a full fledged novel. There are too many characters (not that well defined) in the latter and the book fails to tug at the reader’s heart. The one big thing lacking in Devakaruni’s book is character development. The characters look shallow and look like they were planted in the building just to add some variety. Many don’t serve any purpose apart from adding some conflict to the story.
I read this book in an attempt to read more books from Indian authors, but I am disappointed with this book. I am hoping the next regional book I pick up would be rewarding.