Week 19: One Amazing Thing and Mendoza in Hollywood

One Amazing Thing, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Divakaruni is my favorite writer of contemporary fiction; I just love her books. (So thanks, Monica, for hooking me on her!) This new novel uses the old form that Boccaccio and Chaucer used of a gathering of different people, each of whom tells a story. Here, the characters are in San Francisco, applying for visas to India, when an earthquake hits and traps them in the basement visa office. In order to bear the difficulties of waiting for rescue, they tell personal stories that explain much of their lives and why they are where they are.

It's not a long book, but it's absorbing and well-written. I loved it.

Mendoza in Hollywood, by Kage Baker

The first Company novel, In the Garden of Iden, told the story of Mendoza, a Spanish girl rescued from the Inquisition's dungeons and sent on her first mission to Mary I's England. In this third installment of the series, Mendoza is again the narrator, now living in Los Angeles in 1862. Well, actually at a stagecoach stop in what will someday be Hollywood; one of the residents is a cinema fanatic who knows every inch of the future city, so there's plenty of film detail even though none of it exists yet.

As the books progress, the overarching plot starts to take shape and the Dr. Zeus Company starts to look more and more sinister. I'm really interested in how this series is going to develop.


  1. I haven't read anything by Divakaruni and you've made me interested. Which book should I try first?

  2. Well, the short story collection "Arranged Marriage" was what hooked me 10 years ago. I also really like The Mistress of Spices and Sister of my Heart. The Palace of Illusions is more recent, and it's a retelling of some events in the Mahabharata from the POV of the Pandava brothers' wife Draupadi. I am embarrassed to admit that I didn't finish that one; I was just certain that something awful was going to happen and I didn't want to get there. I should try again, because it's a great book.

  3. You are reading the most amazing books and by authors I haven't heard of before. Enlightening. Will have to check them out on amazon.


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