Monday, March 21, 2011
Published February 2010 by Hyperion
Source: the publisher
Nine people remain in a passport and visa office late one afternoon when an earthquake strikes that strands the disparate people and forces them to work together to survive. After the immediate need for medical care, a reckoning of what supplies they have, and an assessment of their situation, the group tries to settle in and wait for rescue. But fear and personal issues soon begin to cause problems and in-fighting. Then a young graduate student suggests that every one has one amazing thing that has happened to them and suggests that each person tell a story about what that thing is for them. The group is soon caught up in the stories of a young Muslim-American man, an upper-class couple whose relationship is clearly falling apart, a Chinese grandmother and her rebellious Chinese-American granddaughter, an African-American ex-soldier, the graduate student and the Indian man and woman who work in the office and have been heading toward an affair.
I wondered as I read this if Divakaruni had developed these stories and then worked up a story to bring them altogether since the emphasis of this book is definitely on the stories themselves rather than the group's fight for survival. Some of the stories were very lovely, some heartbreaking, some too obviously headed to a moral. Divakaruni does use the stories to look a wealth of issues including class struggles, racism, disillusionment, abandonment, and love. I enjoyed this play on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and feel that Divakaruni developed interesting characters, some with amazing depth.
I got to the end of this book and discovered that I had not taken a single note or marked a single passage to quote. Usually this means that I didn't care for the book. That is certainly not the case with this book; I sat down with this one with the idea that I would take notes but ended up reading through it so quickly that I lost all track of time. And, apparently, notes. While it may be a bit uneven, this is certainly a book I would recommend.