Imagine yourself caught in a raging whirlpool, flailing your arms, trying to save yourself from drowning, but the water rushes over you, engulfing you in its cold embrace and just as you are about to black out, you find yourself on the shore, breathing in lungfuls of sweet, fresh air! That is what Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni does to the reader with her new novel, One Amazing Thing. It is an emotional catharsis for nine strangers facing a slow but ghastly end, brought together by chance and a common destination. Divakaruni is at her best in this book with physical descriptions of the scene of the tragedy so vivid that you feel the rumblings of the ground in your bones just as much as you feel the chill of the rising water and similarly gripping explorations of the characters' emotions. The characters are developed beautifully as they narrate "one amazing"story that has happened in their lives. The fears each character faces and their resulting actions when faced with a dramatic situation are a mirror to the world in which we live in today.In general, the narrative is crisp and brisk but towards the end, it slows down. The early stories are brilliantly constructed and give a concise yet in depth view into the emotional chaos of the characters. The later ones though, feel rushed. The sense of urgency and the feeling of not having enough time ties in with the timeline of the story but leaves you wanting for more. The author could have spent a little more time and pages on the last 3 characters -who are central to the story though not mentioned so explicitly - to bring a little more detail out of their lives. The story does not have a sense of closure and I think it is intentional on the part of the author. The characters, who have been lost at one point or the other in their lives, do not reach their destinations. But handled deftly and sensitively by this gifted author, you breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they have found their paths. How they choose to travel is left up to the reader.
One amazing Thing is an examination of the minds of culturally diverse men and women, which reveals surprisingly similar angst and fears - of rejection, of disappointment, of the search for love - which should help bring us together in this time of strife and hatred. An exciting read that should have been a little longer.