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Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan
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Saving Fish from Drowning (2005)

by Amy Tan

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3,342None1,624 (3.38)110
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  1. 20
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  2. 10
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    PghDragonMan: Ghosts reach into our world to complete tasks left undone
  3. 00
    Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner (Catt172)
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    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (Catt172)
  5. 00
    Taroko Gorge by Jacob Ritari (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: Different cultural perspectives makes for an interesting tale with lots of unexpected twists.
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    Black Mischief by Evelyn Waugh (michigantrumpet)
    michigantrumpet: Satire on intersection (with attendant misunderstandings) between native peoples, politics and clueless Westerners
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English (69)  German (2)  All languages (71)
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
Twelve friends, well-educated, relatively well-off and a bit spoiled, travel to China and Burma for a tour focusing on art and culture. They have some small problems along the way until they inadvertently get kidnapped by a tribe of people in Burma. The story was told in a light-hearted and sometimes humorous way, incorporating Chinese culture, art, the brutal Burmese government, the media and it's influence, and relationships. I thought it was a bit long but overall I liked it. ( )
  gaylebutz | Apr 4, 2014 |
So far this is my least favorite Amy Tan book. In the end, I enjoyed it, but it took a while to get into the story. This is one where I admired the craft of writing more than the story. Tan does a neat trick with her first person omniscient narrator by making her the ghost of a successful Chinese-American business woman and philanthropist. Bibi is dead at the beginning of the book, apparently the victim of a brutal murder, leaving a party of twelve of her friends at a loss for a tour guide to a long-awaited trip to China and Burma (aka Myanmar). They go on the trip anyway "because Bibi would want it" precipitating a series of misadventures which Bibi narrates and comments upon from her vantage point. The title "Saving Fish from Drowning" comes from a story about Buddhist fishermen who aren't allowed to kill any living thing, so "save" the fish from drowning by catching them. This hypocrisy is the overriding theme of the book. Tan explores the hypocrisy of human collectives such as governments, media companies, and charitable organizations, as well as the individual hypocrisies of her vast cast of characters. Tan is at her best in observing and dissecting the human condition. ( )
  MarysGirl | Dec 18, 2013 |
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," Bibi Chen, San Francisco socialite and art vendor, plans to lead a trip to China and Burma for 12 friends. Unfortunately, Bibi dies, in very strange circumstances, before the tour begins. Despite Bibi’s death, the group decides to proceed with her plans. Bibi, as the ghost narrator of the story, tells the tale of how her friends disappear while during their visit to Burma. What started as a vacation turns into an “unaware” kidnapping by a tribe, who recognize their savior among these tourists. We will learn things about Burma and its struggle for independence as well as the daily fight of its tribes for survival. However, while I have enjoyed Amy Tam’s books in the past, this book was not one of my favorites. The characters bordered on cartoonish, sections of the novel were unnecessary making the book too long and some of the plot twists just silly. 2 out of 5 stars. ( )
  marsap | Nov 18, 2013 |
Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan
3.5 to 4 stars
The story is told by the ghost of the omniscient Bibi Chen, the tour leader who unexpectedly dies before the trip takes place. The twelve tourists go on a tour planned by Bibi Chen. During the trip there are many misadventures of how things can have both bad and good consequences. The story explores the politics of Burma or Myanmar. It also looks at the gaffes of American tourists and the tricks and behaviors of newspaper reporters who will put others in danger for their own benefit. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
Bibi Chen has arranged a luxury trip to Myanmar/Burma for herself and 11 of her friends. However, right before the trip begins, Bibi is found dead in her shop under mysterious circumstances. Bibi's friends find another "tour director" and go on with their trip. Their adventures are recounted by Bibi as a spirit, and we quickly learn why Bibi was the leader. Arrogance and stupidity lead the day, until one morning, 11 of the 12 go on a tour and don't come back.

I found parts of this book hilarious, parts eye-rolling at some of the idiotic things people do, part mystery (although Bibi keeps us fairly well-informed on everyone's thoughts & actions). I found it a quick and easy read, and I enjoyed it completely! ( )
  tloeffler | May 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
For Lou DeMattei, Sandra Dijkstra and Molly Giles for saving me countless times.
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It was not my fault.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Synopsis for the Dutch edition:
"Tijdens een excursie in een van de zuidelijke staten van Myanmar (voorheen Birma) komen elf Amerikaanse toeristen al snel in de problemen. Door wendingen van het lot, onwetendheid en menselijke fouten belanden ze midden in de jungle. Daar treffen ze een stam die wacht op de terugkeer van hun leider met zijn mythische boek van wijsheid, dat de stam moet behoeden voor de vernietigende kracht van het Myanmar-regime."
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:34 -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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