Cathartic Retelling
Lola Chatterji
ONE AMAZING THING by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Penguin, 2010, 209 pp., 450
December 2010, volume 34, No 12

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has been writing for fifteen years, during which she has honed her talents; the range of her work has consisted mostly of fiction: novels, short stories and the occasional article in prestigious journals. She has made use of various techniques to project her views on marriage and gender, immigration and even a tale based on the Mahabharat.

The novel opens straightaway with the first paragraph setting the tone for the rest of the work. The situation: When the first rumble came, in the visa office of the basement of the Indian Consulate, no one thought anything of it(p. 1). We are introduced to the protagonist, the Indian student, Uma Sinha who is thinking of her relationship with her boyfriend, but the omniscient third person narrator slips in a reference to Chaucers Wife of Bath, a copy of which is in Umas knapsack. A heterogenous group of people brought together by the common aim of a pilgrimage hints at the predicament of nine characters holed up in the visa section of the Indian Consulate in New York.

They are thrown together by a powerful earthquake, and are stranded for long enough for each one to relate one amazing thinghis or her own story. As they feel they have death staring them in the face, their stories become a kind of reckoning. Here is no attempt to keep a drowsy emperor awake, or beguile the tedium of a pilgrimage. Suspense breaks down their normal protective reactionsand maintains the readers interest up to the last page.

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