Late afternoon sun sneaks through the windows of a passport and visa office in an unnamed American city. Most customers and even most office workers have come and gone, but nine people remain. A punky teenager with an unexpected gift. An upper-class Caucasian couple whose relationship is disintegrating. A young Muslim-American man struggling with the fallout of 9/11. A graduate student haunted by a question about love. An African-American ex-soldier searching for redemption. A Chinese grandmother with a secret past. And two visa office workers on the verge of an adulterous affair.
When an earthquake rips through the afternoon lull, trapping these nine characters together, their focus first jolts to their collective struggle to survive. There's little food. The office begins to flood. Then, at a moment when the psychological and emotional stress seems nearly too much for them to bear, the young graduate student suggests that each tell a personal tale, "one amazing thing" from their lives, which they have never told anyone before. And as their surprising stories of romance, marriage, family, political upheaval, and self-discovery unfold against the urgency of their life-or-death circumstances, the novel proves the transcendent power of stories and the meaningfulness of human expression itself.
When I first finished the book I was confused and a bit angry at the way the book ended, but as I considered what the message of the book was, I saw that it ended the only way it could. Brilliant! I loved all the stories from the different characters. I read in the author’s notes at the end of the book that one of the books that inspired her in the writing of this book was ‘Bel Canto’. I found this very interesting because at the beginning of this book I thought to myself that this book evoked the same feeling as ‘Bel Canto’. If you read this book the let me know, because I would love to discuss it with someone.
5 Stars (Rated PG)