"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."
This well-written and well-imagined book offers readers a diverse collection of stories that help explain exactly how nine different individuals found themselves in the visa office of the Indian Consulate during an earthquake. The characters were certainly a group of unique individuals, but each could have been further fleshed-out to create a more satisfying experience for the reader. I would have appreciate more interaction and evidence of charcter growth in the present-day circumstances, rather than just the backstories presented in the narrative. I also wasn't too thrilled with the rather abrupt ending (nothing more on that to avoid any spoliers). All in all, an enjoyable read that left me feeling vaguely dissatisified because I feel it could have been so much more. 3.5 stars.