One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

It is late afternoon in an Indian visa office in an unnamed American city; most customers have come and gone, but nine people remain: a punky teenager with an unexpected gift; an upper class Caucasian couple whose relationship is disintegrating; a young Muslim-American man struggling with the fallout of 9/11; a graduate student haunted by a question about love; an African-American ex-soldier searching for redemption; a Chinese grandmother with a secret past; and two visa office workers on the verge of an adulterous affair.


When an earthquake rips through the afternoon lull, trapping these nine wildly individual characters together, their focus first jolts to a collective struggle to survive. There’s little food. The office begins to flood. Then, at a moment when the psychological and emotional stress seems nearly too much for them to bear, the young graduate student suggests that each tell a personal tale, “one amazing thing” from their lives, which they have never told anyone before. As their surprising stories of romance, marriage, family, political upheaval, and self-discovery unfold against the urgency of their life-or-death circumstances, the novel proves the transcendent power of stories and the meaningfulness of human expression itself. One Amazing Thing is a passionate creation about survival—and about the reasons to survive.

Ingeniously conceived and intelligently written, this novel is a fable for our time. The characters, troubled or shattered by their past, vibrate with life whenever they begin to speak. The book is a fun read from the first page to the last. - Ha Jin, author of Waiting, winner of the National Book Award:

One Amazing Thing collapses the walls dividing characters and cultures; what endures is a chorus of voices in one single room. - Jhumpa Lahiri, author of Interpreter of Maladies, winner of the Pulitzer Prize:

An incredible and highly original premise in the hands of a gifted storyteller has resulted in this jewel of a story. It is, to paraphrase the book’s title, an amazing thing. - Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone, chosen as a Best of 2009 by Publisher’s Weekly:

    Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author and poet. Her work is widely known, as she has been published in over 50 magazines, including the Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, and her writing has been included in over 50 anthologies. Her works have been translated into 20 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew and Japanese.
    She was born in India and lived there until 1976, at which point she left Calcutta and came to the United States. She continued her education in the field of English by receiving a Master’s degree from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
    To earn money for her education, she held many odd jobs, including babysitting, selling merchandise in an Indian boutique, slicing bread in a bakery, and washing instruments in a science lab. At Berkeley, she lived in the International House and worked in the dining hall. She briefly lived in Illinois, Ohio and Texas, but has spent most of her life in Northern California, which she often writes about.
    Divakaruni currently teaches in the nationally ranked Creative Writing program at the Univ. of Houston. She serves on the Advisory board of Maitri in the San Francisco Bay Area and Daya in Houston. Both these are organizations that help South Asian or South Asian American women who find themselves in abusive or domestic violence situations. She is also on the board of Pratham, an organization that helps educate children (especially those living in urban slums) in India.
    Divakaruni has judged several prestigious awards, such as the National Book Award and the PEN Faulkner Award.
    Two of her books, The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart, have been made into movies by filmmakers Gurinder Chadha and Paul Berges (an English film) and Suhasini Mani Ratnam (a Tamil TV serial) respectively.
    Divakaruni lives in Houston with her husband Murthy, her two sons Anand and Abhay (whose names she has used in her children’s novels) and Juno, the family dog.