Sunday, May 15, 2011

One Amazing Thing - Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

one amazing thing
chitra banerjee divakaruni
c. 2009
220 pages
completed 4/13/2011

read for: south asian challenge

*may contain spoilers*

When the first rumble came, no one in the visa office, down in the  basement of the Indian consulate, thought anything of it.

Expecting an ordinary day with nothing more than a few inconveniences, several people have gathered at an Indian consulate in American. Each are preoccupied with their own lives and give little notice to each other as they wait to finish getting visas. Their lives quickly come together, however, when they are hit by an earthquake and become trapped in the basement of the consulate. As their situation becomes more and more dire, the companions, with little else to pass the time, tell each other their stories.

It hadn't happened in a while, but I read this book in only two days. Maybe not such a feat for others (as the book is only 220 pages) but I tend to read annoyingly slow. But I found this extremely hard to put down. I've been pretty unmotivated lately, either to read much or blog or even read other people's blogs, but I'm trying to get all three back on track.

I read this about a month ago, so the review may be a little lacking or disjointed, so I'm sorry.

I always find it especially enjoyable when I feel a personal connection to what I'm reading, especially if that personal connection is something somewhat arbitrary. Like when I'm reading a historical fiction novel and they happen to be discussing an aspect of history that I just learned about in one of my classes or something like that. In this book, I noticed pretty early on in their time together, that the group stuck in the consulate were going through the five stages of team building. When I served in AmeriCorps, we ended up having to talk about team building all the time, and we'd do all those ridiculous games and exercises to make sure we had smooth running teams. It's one of those things that is important to do, but everyone kind of hates doing it so you have to kind of make fun of it. I spent two years in AmeriCorps and we talked about team building (or I guess were lectured about team building) all the time. So it was kind of funny for me to read this and make note of when they transitioned into the next stage. For anyone interested the five stages are forming (when you first meet), storming (when everyone is fighting), norming (when the team starts to understand how everyone else works), performing (when you're able to work at the team's utmost potential), and celebrating (when the job's all done). I wish they could have come up with a rhyming word for the fifth stage.

I found myself enthralled with the stories told by the group of trapped people. Just as I like certain members of the group more than others (I'm looking at you, Mr. Pritchett. You were super annoying), I liked certain stories more than  others. I particularly enjoyed the stories set in India. I had no idea there was such a history of Chinese emigration to India and subsequent racism against them. I really enjoyed Mangalam and Malathi's stories of being almost forced to come to America. The Pritchett's stories both left me a little cold, however.

The only major issue I had with the book was the end, and part of that is just my own personal preference. I don't enjoy ambiguous resolutions, and we're left not knowing if the group is rescued and survives (for my part, I'm apparently a Debbie Downer because I don't think they did). And also, I don't think I totally got the ending of Uma's story, the deal with whether or not the aurora was real. I didn't realize that was questionable until she said she lied to Jeri. Maybe I should re-read the last chapter and see if I have any divine revelations.


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