[ books ] Saving Fish from Drowning: A NovelAuthor Amy Tan – Wildlives.co
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 DisappearWith 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 If Tolstoy and Cecil B DeMille collaborated on a novel, it would turn out something like this A cast of thousands of miserable characters.Saving Fish From Drowning was not a novel, but an endurance test If I didn t have to facilitate a book group about this novel, I would not have read past the first 50 pages I ve heard great things about Amy Tan, and haven t read her other stuff and won t discount it based on this but lordy, I have no incentive to read her work now.This novel is a claustrophobe s nightmare just when you think she can t introduce any characters to an already overcrowded plot, she throws in another dozen or so By the end of the book I found myself rooting for the military junta to kill everyone off, just so the book would end and I wouldn t have to try to keep everyone straight.I know this book has been doing the book club circuit, but I am completely perplexed as to why It seems after the first group read it they would have warned others awayI d get into the plot, but why bother There is an anonymous quote in the preface that reads, 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 nets so I can save fishes This book has been jostling around with me for the past year I just couldn t settle down long enough to make my way into it I am happy to have taken the swim, however, because Amy Tan never disappoints me Never She is an excellent story teller, and in this novel she has a way of suspending one s belief while expounding ordinary details about the story I found myself thinking a few times, Could that really happen Then I found myself just accepting things that I normally wouldn t all in the name of being transported through fictionone of my favorite things It deals much with morality, though some of you might not enjoy some of the characters take on the subject However, if you are interested in a tale involving a deceased narrator, appreciation for art, interpersonal relationships within a confined social group, an extended stay in the jungle of Burma where one is kidnapped without realizing it, and an extended commentary on the human rights abuses of the military junta in Burma the junta have renamed it Myanmar, but with respect to the tale described in this book, let s all call it Burma, okay consider it. I think I have read all of Amy Tan s books, but this one was completely different To really understand it you have to believe that dead people can be channeled, and second you have to know a lot about the history of Burma Myanmar than I do I could never figure out if this was based on a real case, or whether it was based on a psychic s remembrances, or was just Amy sort of putting her readers on However quirky and odd it is, and however she came up with the idea for the novel, I enjoyed it On some levels it is a travelogue, and in some ways it is a column in Conde Nast Traveller telling about how a trip can go wrong In some ways it is a mystery, and in some ways it reminds you of Barbara Kingsolver s The Poisonwood Bible It just doesn t fit smoothly into any one category, not even the category of Amy Tan novels I would love to get other readers take on it This is a novel for someone who wants to read something very different than what he or she usually reads. I read this book a long time ago and should have written this review a long time ago What a wonder this book is Having read all of Amy Tan s books, I expected good writing, serious cultural and gender themes, and disturbing realities What I did not expect was this book It is side splittingly, laugh out loud, hilarious You get the usual significant wit, wisdom and writing chomps of Amy Tan, along with Swiftian satire, that is stand up comedian funny Think Robin Williams relaxed.Every bit of this book is entertaining The first half most so, where the scene is set The San Francisco cultural elite, hook up with a famous British dog trainer, and other assorted perfectly spoofed politically correct characters, to go on an authentic travel experience to Burma.The San Francisco, Chinese, female, opera loving main character is dead, but don t worry, she is still the main character, and she took good care of her dog poochini in her will.I loved the wind instrument symphony in the hotel the most.If you want to have fun, read this book. From reading the back cover of this book, I expected something like The Poisonwood Bible Some of the elements are similar group of Americans visit third world country, spend time with the natives, have their preconceptions shattered through hardship and numerous misunderstandings But this book was unsettlingly lighthearted I think that Amy Tan was trying to write a book that treats the reader as a tourist, as someone who seeks a story that is exotic and adventurous without being too disturbing At one point the narrator discusses the difficulty of writing a book about the troubled world of Burma that will actually appeal to readers Just as tourists hear about the atrocities committed by the military government and then forget about them in an isolated resort, readers hear horrible tales of murder and torture, only to have them buried in silly scenes like the visit to the temple in China, where the tourists conduct themselves in with shockingly bad behavior It s an interesting idea, but it didn t work for me The combination of tragedy and farce was too jarring The book was narrated by a ghost who had insight into everyone s thoughts and feelings I did enjoy this aspect of the book Although the characters were often irritating and self centered, I felt that they were fairly real Who wouldn t look a bit ugly and self important if presented through their private thoughts, rather than their careful, calculated actions The Lovely Bones if it were set in China This book is really gripping and somber, very well written, and I m surprised it has such low ratings, because I thought it was great. It took me awhile to read this novel Each paragraph holds thoughtful meanings and insight that aren t quickly digested but gradually enjoyed Human nature, what we are about, what I do and why I do what I do, are some things stirred up I love all of Amy Tan s writing Her history of China is right there with Buck s The Good Earth I would ask one thing of her To keep writing novels. Oh Good Lord What an awful waste of time This was a torture to finish, but I was really holding out for an ending that would make the misery worth while But nay that was not to be the case.Here was an opportunity for a dozen world travelers to have an adventure And they may have had one, but it HAD to be interesting than the telling we got from Amy Even the sexual escapades were boring How can that be How were these people so boring AND so gullible The characters were not believeable, the plot was not believeable, the fact that none of them died of boredom was not believeable Younger White Brother Why not exploit that one a bit.I guess I should have known another story told from the perspective of a ghost I guess the dead but not crossed over just aren t very good story tellers. I put off reading this book for a long time because of the horrible reviews I can see some of the reviewers points, but overall, I really enjoyed this novel.This is definitely a departure from Tan s normal novels about the relationships between Chinese born mothers and their Chinese American daughters Although she does a wonderful job capturing the dynamics of those relationships, while weaving in fascinating glimpses of Chinese history, I m glad to see her trying something new.A few of the characters in this novel are Chinese, but the majority are not One of the criticisms I have read is that she has too many prominent characters and therefore spreads her character development too thin I agree somewhat, but beyond the narrator, the recently deceased, but always bigger than life Bibi Chen, the plot is important Plot wise, this is also a huge change for Tan This is an adventure novel which ventures into the land of magical realism This begins with the idea that Bibi s spirit is following her friends on the trip through China and Burma that she was supposed to lead Thrown into the mix is a glimpse of life in the military regime of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma Overall, this was a great read, which I found to be relatively quick, despite it s healthy length.