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Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan

Saving Fish from Drowning (original 2005; edition 2005)

by Amy Tan

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3,960951,915 (3.39)133
Title:Saving Fish from Drowning
Authors:Amy Tan
Info:GP Putnam's Sons (2005)Hardcover, 474 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Asian novel

Work details

Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan (2005)

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English (92)  German (2)  All languages (94)
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
On an ill-fated art expedition into Burma, eleven Americans travelers veer off their itinerary and embark on a trail paved with cultural gaffes and tribal curses, Buddhist illusions and romantic desires.
  JRCornell | Dec 8, 2018 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Mar 2013):
- I was left confused as to what Ms Tan was trying for here. Quirkiness? A story of astringently charming, uncouth tourists who seemingly have taken a wrong turn off the Santa Monica freeway and wound up in Burma? Add some bathroom "humor" and a liberal sprinkling of vanity among the one-dimensional cast, and what do you have? I've no idea, but I had to grit my teeth through this one. The only feature I genuinely liked was the concept of the original tour guide, the belated Bibi, as overseer of the narrative. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Aug 1, 2018 |
Saving Fish from Drowning is far from one of Amy Tan's best novels. We start off rather slow and things progress only at a snails pace until about half way through the 450+ page book. Once things get going the story becomes marginally more interesting, but the conclusion and climax are lacking. The whole novel lacks the substance that one becomes accustom to expecting from a Tan novel, neither is the prose quite on par with her other works. While the concept behind the novel is intriguing the execution is lacking, I really did want to love this book as I have others by Tan, but something about it is just off, so to speak. ( )
  rlgemperline89 | Jul 14, 2018 |
2-1/2 stars. I would have liked this better if I had realized early on that a lot of it was meant to be light & amusing. I was distracted by the early introduction of apparent tragedy. ( )
  Siubhan | Feb 28, 2018 |
I like Ms. Tan's style of writing. Descriptions are a work of art to the senses. Some are meant to be savored in the imagination. Others made me laugh and want to read again. The story was not riveting, which is why it took so long for me to finish, but the study of the characters was interesting.
  Desdelyn | Jan 4, 2018 |
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The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding. - Albert Camus
A pious man explained to his followers: "It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, werhe they flop and twirl. "Don't be scared," I tell those fishes. "I am saving you from drowning." Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes. - Anonymous
For Lou DeMattei, Sandra Dijkstra and Molly Giles for saving me countless times.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 034546401X, Paperback)

Amy Tan, who has an unerring eye for relationships between mothers and daughters, especially Chinese-American, has departed from her well-known genre in Saving Fish From Drowning. She would be well advised to revisit that theme which she writes about so well.

The title of the book is derived from the practice of Myanmar fishermen who "scoop up the fish and bring them to shore. They say they are saving the fish from drowning. Unfortunately... the fish do not recover," This kind of magical thinking or hypocrisy or mystical attitude or sheer stupidity is a fair metaphor for the entire book. It may be read as a satire, a political statement, a picaresque tale with several "picaros" or simply a story about a tour gone wrong.

Bibi Chen, San Francisco socialite and art vendor to the stars, plans to lead a trip for 12 friends: "My friends, those lovers of art, most of them rich, intelligent, and spoiled, would spend a week in China and arrive in Burma on Christmas Day." Unfortunately, Bibi dies, in very strange circumstances, before the tour begins. After wrangling about it, the group decides to go after all. The leader they choose is indecisive and epileptic, a dangerous combo. Bibi goes along as the disembodied voice-over.

Once in Myanmar, finally, they are noticed by a group of Karen tribesmen who decide that Rupert, the 15-year-old son of a bamboo grower is, in fact, Younger White Brother, or The Lord of the Nats. He can do card tricks and is carrying a Stephen King paperback. These are adjudged to be signs of his deity and ability to save them from marauding soldiers. The group is "kidnapped," although they think they are setting out for a Christmas Day surprise, and taken deep into the jungle where they languish, develop malaria, learn to eat slimy things and wait to be rescued. Nats are "believed to be the spirits of nature--the lake, the trees, the mountains, the snakes and birds. They were numberless ... They were everywhere, as were bad luck and the need to find reasons for it." Philosophy or cynicism? This elusive point of view is found throughout the novel--a bald statement is made and then Tan pulls her punches as if she is unwilling to make a statement that might set a more serious tone.

There are some goofy parts about Harry, the member of the group who is left behind, and his encounter with two newswomen from Global News Network, some slapstick sex scenes and a great deal of dog-loving dialogue. These all contribute to a novel that is silly but not really funny, could have an occasionally serious theme which suddenly disappears, and is about a group of stereotypical characters that it's hard to care about. It was time for Amy Tan to write another book; too bad this was it. --Valerie Ryan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:33 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A pious man explained to his followers: "It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. 'Don't be scared,' I tell those fishes. 'I am saving you from drowning.' Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes."--Anonymous ; twelve American tourists join an art expedition that begins in the Himalayan foothills of China--dubbed the true Shangri-La--and heads south into the jungles of Burma. But after the mysterious death of their tour leader, the carefully laid plans fall apart, and disharmony breaks out among the pleasure-seekers as they come to discover that the Burma Road is paved with less-than-honorable intentions, questionable food, and tribal curses. And then, on Christmas morning, eleven of the travelers boat across a misty lake for a sunrise cruise--and disappear. Drawing from the current political reality in Burma and woven with pure confabulation, Amy Tan's picaresque novel poses the question: How can we discern what is real and what is fiction, in everything we see? How do we know what to believe?… (more)

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