One Amazing Thing (Hardcover)

By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Voice, 9781401340995, 220pp.

Publication Date: February 2, 2010

Summer '11 Reading Group List

“Nine people are trapped in the Indian consulate's visa office after a devastating earthquake. As they start to melt down emotionally, Uma, a grad student, suggests they each tell a story about one thing in their lives. The stories they tell are incredible, and you will feel as though you have known and understand each character as they wait for rescue or death. An amazing read.”
— cinda meister, Booksmart, Morgan Hill, CA
View the List

March 2010 Indie Next List

“Nine people are trapped in the Indian consulate's visa office after a devastating earthquake. As they start to melt down emotionally, Uma, a grad student, suggests they each tell a story about one thing in their lives. The stories they tell are incredible, and you will feel as though you have known and understand each character as they wait for rescue or death. An Amazing read.”
— Cinda Meister, Booksmart, Morgan Hill, CA
View the List
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Description

An acclaimed novel by the author of The Mistress of Spices, and Before We Visit the Goddess. Jhumpa Lahiri praises: "One Amazing Thing collapses the walls dividing characters and cultures; what endures is a chorus of voices in one single room."
Late afternoon sun sneaks through the windows of a passport and visa office in an unnamed American city. Most customers and even most office workers 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 characters together, their focus first jolts to their 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. And 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. From Chitra Divakaruni, author of such finely wrought, bestselling novels as Sister of My Heart, The Palace of Illusions, and The Mistress of Spices, comes her most compelling and transporting story to date. One Amazing Thing is a passionate creation about survival--and about the reasons to survive.


About the Author

Chitra Divakaruni is an award-winning and bestselling novelist and poet. She is the author of 14 books in all, including the short story collection The Unknown Errors of Our Lives and the novels Sister of My Heart, The Mistress of Spices, Queen of Dreams, and The Palace of Illusions. Two of her novels have been made into movies. Her writings have appeared in more than 50 magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker. She has also become a frequently sought-after op-ed and NPR commentator regarding how the West perceives Southeast Asia.


Praise For One Amazing Thing

"Divakaruni is a brilliant storyteller; she illuminates the world with her artistry; and shakes the reader with her love."
-Junot Diaz



Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. If you were to tell the story of one amazing thing that had happened in your life, what would it be? Would it be a memory of a gift, an experience, a person that you met, or an event that you witnessed? What made it amazing, and how did it change your life? 
  2. Would the experience of reading One Amazing Thing have been different had the narrative been from the point of view of just one person, or if the story was told by an outside figure removed from the events in the book?
  3. The book begins and ends with Uma Sinha, the graduate student. Why did the author choose Uma’s story to “bookend” the novel in this way? What about Uma set her apart from the members of the group, in your mind? 
  4. If you were trapped in a similar dangerous situation as the characters in One Amazing Thing, how do you think you’d react? Was there an action or behavior by a character that resonated with you?
  5. Out of the nine people in the visa office, did you identify with any in particular? Which one(s) and why?
  6. Why was each character’s “one amazing thing” remarkable? 
  7. Which character’s story did you find the most unexpected? Conversely, were you able to predict what was to happen in any of the stories?
  8. Refresh your memory with the stories of the female characters in the book. Did these stories have anything in common?
  9. “Apologize to a woman and she would gain the upper hand. Mangalam knew better than to let that happen” (pg. 55). What did you first think of Mr. Mangalam, and did this change after you learned his story?
  10. Discuss Mr. and Mrs. Pritchett. Were you surprised, as their stories unfolded, to discover their reasons for going to India?
  11. Almost all of the characters experience or perpetuate some kind of cultural misunderstanding. What did you learn about some of the cultures and religions explored in the book?
  12. What did you think of the book’s ending? What do you think the group’s fate was? Why did Uma’s story end where it did?
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