Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Jul 30th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

True Nature

AE_CBDivakaruniChitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s new novel explores human reactions to a devastating natural disaster
It’s difficult to fathom the unbelievable stories of heroism and endurance that have daily reached our ears since the massive earthquake hit Haiti a few weeks ago. But it should set us thinking that, if a quake of that magnitude were to strike here, would we be prepared? What would we do if a temblor more substantial than any we’ve seen in 200 years hit Santa Cruz County? Would we rise to the occasion, helping our friends and neighbors in the hour of need? Or would we cower alone, hoarding our food and water in a dark corner? Natural disasters are a sure-fire way of bringing out the true nature of individuals, as demonstrated in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s new book, “One Amazing Thing.” Banerjee will be speaking about her new book at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 8 at Capitola Book Café. Though the exact location of where the story unfolds is never really mentioned, myriad clues lead this reader to believe (or at least imagine) that it takes place in San Francisco—earthquake central. It is a day like any other at the Indian Consulate, as a handful of people wait in line impatiently to receive their visas. Each looks at the other with suspicion and a curiosity about why that person is traveling to Southeast Asia. Suddenly a mighty earthquake strikes, trapping the strangers together and causing them to form an unlikely bond. There’s a graduate student struggling to determine the path her life will take; an elderly Chinese woman and her rebellious teenage granddaughter; a wealthy American couple experiencing a rough patch in their relationship; an African-American Vietnam War veteran going through post-traumatic stress syndrome; a young Muslim-American with a grudge against the world after 9/11; and two visa office employees who are on the verge of a torrid affair.

When it becomes apparent that the group is trapped and help is not on its way, Cameron, the Vietnam vet, takes the initiative to preserve the physical by collecting food, water and what inadequate medical supplies can be found in the office’s dilapidated first aid kit. But it is Uma, the graduate student, who attempts to calm the group’s frayed nerves by conjuring up the idea that everyone tells one amazing thing from their past as a way of distracting themselves from the disaster that has encapsulated them in darkness and imminently threatens their lives. As loves, losses and personal histories are slowly and vibrantly unveiled; each person gains a new awareness of themselves and of the others—causing a connection that seems to make the dire situation a little less stressful.

Divakaruni lives and works in Houston and her inspiration for the tome drew from her own experience of being forced to evacuate the Texas city as Hurricane Rita threatened to blow through in 2005. “As we sat on the freeway late into the night, paralyzed by traffic and wondering what would happen to us, I saw people around me responding in many different ways,” Divakaruni shares in a recent interview. “The pressure brought out the worst in some and the best in others. Some were toting guns, snarling at people; others were sharing their meager supply of water and snacks. That’s when I knew I’d have to write about this phenomenon,” she concludes. In addition to “One Amazing Thing,” Divakaruni has written 14 other books including the acclaimed “The Mistress of Spices,” “The Palace of Illusions” and “Sister of my Heart,” many of which deal mainly with Indian history and culture and contain main characters that are Indian. But her new novel is nothing like her previous books, she says. “For one, unlike my other novels which have one or at most two protagonists, in “Amazing” all the characters are equally important, all their stories equally crucial to the creation of the community,” the author explains. “That is the point of the book: together, they help each other survive.” “One Amazing Thing” is also more multi-cultural than my other books … here, five of the nine characters are non-Indian,” she says.

What sustains someone through a life-threatening situation—whether praying, singing or recalling the face of a loved one—is as unique to the individual as his or her fingerprints and can be remarkably effective as we have seen from survivors from the Haitian quake that have been pulled out up to nearly two weeks after the fact. “One Amazing Thing” uses storytelling to sustain the souls of these nine unlikely comrades making this inspirational tale not only a captivating read but also a testament to the redeeming power of human love and connection.


Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni will speak at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 8 at Capitola Book Café, 1475 41st Ave., Capitola. For more information, call 462-4415 or visit chitradivakaruni.com.

Photo Credit: Neela Banerjee

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Health Screening

Santa Cruz wellness expert releases app to improve workplace well-being

 

Leo Sun; Full Moon, Venus Retro in Leo; Saturn Direct

It’s a complex week of planetary movements, challenges, demands and callings. We’re in the time of the Leo Sun. Leo—fixed fire, gold, the heart, generous, strong, noble, the king/queen—needs appreciation and praise from everyone in order to move forward. During Leo we gain a greater sense of self-identification by recognizing our creativity. It’s therefore a perfect time for Venus retrograding in Leo. In Venus retrograde we review and re-assess values. Venus retro in Leo concerns our self as valuable, acknowledging talents, gifts, abilities and offerings. Friday, Venus re-enters Leo (29 degrees, a critical degree) continuing the retrograde to 14 degrees Leo on Sept. 6. Friday (Full Moon) is also the (8 degrees) Leo solar festival, Festival of the Future. Leo is the heart of the sun, the heart of all that matters. When attuned to this heart, we have understanding and inclusivity. The heart of the Lion is Mitra (think “Maitreya,” the coming World Teacher). Leo prepares humanity to receive divine love from subtle sources and later to radiate that love to the kingdoms. Sirius, Ray 2, where love originates, streams through Regulus (heart of Leo), into the heart of the sun (Ray 2) and into all hearts. The heart of Leo is Regulus. Joining Venus, the love underlying all of creation appears. Saturday is Sun/Neptune (confusion or devotion) with late night Saturn turning stationary direct. Ideas, plans and structures held long in abeyance (since March 14) slowly move forward. (Read more on Leo and the week at nightlightnews.org and Risa D’Angeles’ Facebook page, accessed through my website.)

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Jailbreak with Reality

‘The Stanford Prison Experiment’ revisits one of the most notorious studies of all time
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Holy Cannoli

New bakery opens in Ben Lomond, plus Randall Grahm’s quest to grow 10,000 new grape varieties, and Mexican cooking classes

 

Is Santa Cruz turning into Malibu North?

It's got a ways to go before it gets wrecked like Malibu, but I think we need to be very careful about growth. Maria Mattioli, Santa Cruz, Psychotherapist

 

Bargetto Winery

A much-anticipated annual event at Bargetto Winery is the release of their very special La Vita red wine. June 7 was the day to be heralded this year, and I happily squeezed my car into their overloaded car park in eager anticipation of tasting the new La Vita nectar.

 

Margaritaville

Popular Capitola spot gets new owner and complete makeover