Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

One Amazing Thing

by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
240 pages

*** About the Book ***

An earthquake traps a random group of people in the basement office of the Indian Passport Agency in a big American city.  This disparate group quickly realizes that they cannot get themselves out without help, and that the basement is slowly flooding.  To keep their mind off their troubles and to bring them together, a young woman suggests that they each tell a story from their own lives, specifically a story about an amazing thing that they experienced.  As the situation deteriorates around them, each person shares a story that causes the others to view them in a new way.

*** Why I Read It ***

I received this book from the author after having been intrigued by it online.  Then I convinced my book club to choose it for our June book.  Gotta love it when you can kill two birds with one stone!

*** My Thoughts ***

I'm not really sure what I think about this book.  For one thing, I think the title is misleading. I expected to learn something "amazing" about each of the characters, but that didn't exactly happen.  Rather than one "amazing" thing, each story focused on one "defining" thing - a situation, an action, an experience - that helped mold the person into who he or she is today.  Of course, "One Defining Thing" doesn't have quite the same ring as "One Amazing Thing" when you thing of book titles, and really, this is more a matter of my perception and expectation and not really a critique of the book.

What I can say about the book is that I did not like the style of writing the author used to tell each person's story.  It was almost an omniscient narrator but not quite.  I would have much preferred if each story had been told from that person's point of view, or at least from the point of view of one specified listener.  I was pulled out of the story over and over again by the author's odd narrating technique.

That said, the stories that each person shared were truly defining moments for them and they did often change the way that the other survivors viewed the storyteller.  It reminded me of the way that I came to appreciate some of my older relatives after hearing my Gram tell stories about their younger days.  The book is an excellent reminder that there is more to people than what we see, and more even than they choose to show us on a regular basis.

*** Your Thoughts ***

Have you heard of this book before?  What do you think of the premise? If you've read it, what did you think about the narrating style?

We could have an entire conversation about the way the book ends but I don't want to spoil it for anyone; if you want to talk about it, feel free to shoot me an email.


Diane said...

I liked this book a lot, I know it was not perfect but still though the characters stories were interesting.

Literary Feline said...

The premise is certainly interesting. I am sorry you didn't enjoy this more.

Aths said...

I have some 50 pages left in this book, but I have the same feelings as you. I wish the narration was either uniform (from one person's perspective) or widely personified (the speaker's perspective). I can't say it clicked for me. And I am thinking as well about the amazing/defining thing. I think each person had something amazing to say - Jiang's love, Mr. Pritchett's love for the cat, Mangalam's affair with Latika, Lily's flute skills, Malathi's transformation. But the way each story ended - on a somewhat tragic note - masked whatever good they got out of the experience. The way the story is told put more emphasis on the end result than the means, and for that reason, I'm not sure how each story can be called "Amazing Thing".

Did I ramble too much? LOL! Excellent review!

Heather J. said...

Diane - I think many of my book club ladies feel the same as you, but I'll find out next week ...

Literary Feline - Ah well, you can't win 'em all!

Aths - Feel free to ramble here whenever you like! And I agree, the word "amazing" really wasn't the right one for this book.

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