One Amazing Thing is a beautiful novel, a tapestry of nine stories from Houston’s Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, whose short fiction earned her an American Book Award in 1996. Seven potential travelers in an unnamed U.S. city are applying for documents at an Indian Consulate when an earthquake razes the building and traps them in the visa office along with two consular employees. After a couple of cold, disheartening days in the flooded agency, the fractious group agrees to pass the time by telling tales of “one amazing thing” that has happened in their lives. Plot device aside, the backstories that Divakaruni spins are brilliantly inventive windows into unfamiliar territory for the Western reader, such as the Sino-Indian War of 1962 (which sends Jiang, a Chinese Indian woman, into an arranged marriage that lets her escape to America) or India’s social strata (Malathi, a would-be bride in Coimbatore, defies her parents and the caste system by taking a job in the beauty salon where she is sent to be made up for a photo meant to attract potential suitors). For the tellers, the tales provide catharsis—a minute of grace as they pray for rescue. Divakaruni captures the power of those moments to create a passionate, intelligent book that sings with humanity. Voice, $23.99