In the past year, I’ve read (and reviewed) a lot of travel memoirs. I was on a deliberate kick because I wanted to absorb the genre and better understand how writers tell their story. This fall however, in conjunction with my speech to the freshmen at Central College in Iowa, I read the assigned book for their freshman lecture class, One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni. My goal was to weave similar themes and ideas into my speech about global citizenship and travel.
What started as merely research for my speech quickly captivated me. I rapidly progressed through the book to find out how the fate of the nine key characters unfolded. The novel takes place in the basement of the Indian embassy in San Francisco, and the tension ramps up as an earthquake traps the nine characters in the basement hoping and waiting for help to come. To pass the time, the narrator, a young graduate students, asks each person to share a story of “one amazing thing” from their lives. These nine stories form the core of the book, with the earthquake narrative wrapping around each short story. The author is best known for her short stories, and for that reason this book format is perfect for her abilities and she creates strong characters and a lot of heart in each short narrative arch within the larger plot.
The stories of the people I meet in each place shape my favorite travel memories these past six years, which is one of the reasons I so enjoyed this book. As we hurry through life, it’s so easy to forget that each person around us has their own fascinating events that led up to that moment. And even more, it’s a reminder that we are in control of shaping our own story, we are currently making choices that shape amazing stories we would tell in a similar situation. It’s this idea that I wove into my talk with the students. And it’s this reminder that I loved about her novel. Well it’s not specifically a travel novel, it has a cast of characters and cultural nuances that make it’s an interesting read.
If you’re keen to read more, you can find the book on Amazon.
I offered a free copy of One Amazing Thing to newsletter subscribers and readers.
Bonus entry question:
Leave a haiku version of one amazing thing from your own life.
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Read my reviews policy and disclaimer or my other book reviews. And here I list the best travel books for every country around the world. Although I sometimes allow an author or company to host a giveaway, I sponsored this month myself.