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Saving Fish from Drowning: A Novel [Paperback]

Amy Tan
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 26 2006 Ballantine Reader's Circle
“A rollicking, adventure-filled story . . . packed [with] the human capacity for love.”
–USA Today

“A superbly executed, good-hearted farce that is part romance and part mystery . . . With Tan’s many talents on display, it’s her idiosyncratic wit and sly observations . . . that make this book pure pleasure.”
–San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco art patron Bibi Chen has planned a journey of the senses along the famed Burma Road for eleven lucky friends. But after her mysterious death, Bibi watches aghast from her ghostly perch as the travelers veer off her itinerary and embark on a trail paved with cultural gaffes and tribal curses, Buddhist illusions and romantic desires. On Christmas morning, the tourists cruise across a misty lake and disappear.

With picaresque characters and mesmerizing imagery, Saving Fish from Drowning gives us a voice as idiosyncratic, sharp, and affectionate as the mothers of The Joy Luck Club. Bibi is the observant eye of human nature–the witness of good intentions and bad outcomes, of desperate souls and those who wish to save them. In the end, Tan takes her readers to that place in their own heart where hope is found.

“Amy Tan is among our great storytellers.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“Amy Tan has created an almost magical adventure that, page by page, becomes a metaphor for human relationships.”
–Isabel Allende

“With humor, ruthlessness, and wild imagination, Tan has reaped [a] fantastic tale of human longings and (of course) their consequences.”

“A book that’s easy to read and hard to forget.”

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

When Amy Tan walks into a bookstore and reads from her work, the audience is enthralled by her very presence. But an audio recording is an art form and a performance, not an author appearance. Some authors excel as performers—for example, Simon Brett performs his Murder in the Museum with aplomb —but Tan is not gifted with an actor's range. Alone in a studio, Tan does not do justice to her own work. Words melt when Tan drops her voice at the end of sentences—and even in the middle. It sounds as if she is rocking back and forth in front of the microphone, or perhaps looking down and away from the mike to study the text. She is also unable to produce different voices for her characters. The narrator who finds Bibi Chen's writings (via a psychic) sounds exactly like Bibi herself. The comments of Bibi's ghost on the ill-fated trip of several of her friends in China and Myanmar are clearly meant to be humorous, but this, too, doesn't come across in Bibi's voice. As a writer, Tan has a well-deserved following. Hopefully, she will leave future recordings to someone who can give her novels the breadth they deserve.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Fish is based on the real-life disappearance of 12 American tourists in Myanmar. The narrator is Bibi Chen, dealer in Chinese antiquities, who had arranged an art-oriented tour for her friends. When she dies under mysterious circumstances, the others decide to proceed, saying that Bibi will join them in spirit–an invitation she accepts. Mostly well-meaning, but ignorant and naive, the group lands in one hilarious situation after another due to cultural misunderstandings. On a lake outing, they are kidnapped and taken to a hidden village where a rebel tribe waits for the Younger White Brother, who will make them invisible and bullet-proof and enable them to recover their land. They believe that theyve found him in 15-year-old Rupert, an amateur magician. The tour group consists of 10 adults and 2 adolescents, some pillars of the community and some decidedly not, but all rich, intelligent, and spoiled. Bibi, feisty and opinionated, uncovers their fears, desires, and motives, and the shades of truth in their words. As the novel progresses, they become more human and less stereotypical, changing as a result of their experiences. Although Tan also satirizes the tourist industry, American Buddhism, and reality TV, her focus is on the American belief that everyone everywhere plays by the same rules. An extremely funny novel with serious undercurrents.–Sandy Freund, Richard Byrd Library, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rich Karmic Ironies Abound July 15 2006
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
If you are looking for a "typical" Amy Tan novel about a Chinese mother and daughter, please be aware that this book doesn't follow Ms. Tan's marvelous prior novels into that rich story-telling vein. If you like satirical novels, you will wonder why Ms. Tan takes so long to lay waste to her targets.

But if you like novels rich in cultural and psychological irony, you've found a gem. I emphasize that point because irony is something that many readers avoid or don't enjoy very much. I find that there are too few well-written ironic novels, and I treasure all those that I find.

Like most stories about ironies, this one takes on such a broad theme that it can be easy to miss the message: Unintended consequences cause your purest impulses to backfire on you and on those you want to help. Ms. Tan's choice of a title gives a broad clue, in referring to an anonymous tale about a pious man who "saves" the lives of fish from drowning by catching them. When the fish die, he's disappointed but realizing that one must never waste anything, he sells the dead fishes to buy more nets . . . so he can save more fish from drowning.

Like a good symphony composer, Ms. Tan then endows her major characters with story lines that let them each play out that theme in their own variations. To make sure we get the point, each personal story is imbued with ironies that are both richly developed and humorous.

To be sure we understand that there are other forces at work, Ms. Tan sets as her initial narrator a wealthy patron of the arts who has just died . . . but is still lingering around to observe her own funeral . . . and the actions of the tour group she had organized.
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2.0 out of 5 stars not bad April 21 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It was not what I expected. I enjoyed some of the humour and especially the cultural stories about Myanmar. At other times, I found it too descriptive and therefore it lost my interest.
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4.0 out of 5 stars really enjoyed it June 15 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Worth the long length. Filled with imaginative scenarios, both funny and poignant. Very timely topic. Amy Tam does it again! I really recommend it!
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