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Saving Fish from Drowning

3.40  ·  Rating Details  ·  23,991 Ratings  ·  2,392 Reviews
San Francisco art patron Bibi Chen has planned a journey of the senses along the farmed 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 ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 491 pages
Published June 30th 2006 by Ballantine (first published 2005)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jun 21, 2007 Kara rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a huge fan of Amy Tan, and this book was a disappointment.
Saving Fish from Drowning was outside of her voice and style, and unlike her previous novels, it took me forever to get into it. I finally finished after forcing myself to do so.
Perhaps it's that I've come to expect her typical style that mixes magic, relationships, lessons learned and insight to Asian cultural. You could argue that Saving Fish from Drowning included those elements. However, I feel those pieces were not entwined int
Sep 26, 2014 Mel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: an insomniac
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 more 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 believeab
Feb 20, 2008 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-favorites
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 ...more
Mar 09, 2009 Ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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 disturbi ...more
Sep 16, 2008 Erica rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 cla
Cindy Knoke
Jul 26, 2012 Cindy Knoke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 03, 2009 Camilla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 18, 2009 Fran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: literate readers, Amy Tan fans
Recommended to Fran by: found at used bookstore
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 more 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 ...more
Aug 27, 2014 Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Amy Tan, those interested in Asia, especially Burma
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 ch
Mar 16, 2008 Pam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have waited awhile to post about this book because I like Amy Tan so much that I was hoping that the story would continue to resonate and lead me to learn that I liked the book more than I thought I such luck.

There are many smart devices in the book and I continue to like and enjoy Amy Tan's voice - but I never got to the point where I cared so much about many of the characters in this book - although some were memorable.

I did discover while I was waiting that my visual image of Bibi
Aug 04, 2007 Sammy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c-the-okay
Unlike others who have read all of Tan's books, I have only had the pleasure of reading The Joy Luck Club. Just going off that book I found Saving Fish from Drowning to be quite different.

While it held true to Tan's brilliant, rich way of writing and continued her analysis of human nature and relationships, she seemed to step outside of her usual comfort zone and the whole tone of the book took on that of a political adventure. One thing that was particularly unique and enjoyable was our narrato
Oct 02, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a book club selection that I was NOT going to read. I read The Joy Luck Club a few years back & didn't care for it at all, so reading another Amy Tan book was not on the top of my list. But the back of Saving Fish had a review by Isabelle Allende, whom I adore. I decided to read 30 pages because I couldn't imagine Isabelle steering me wrong. If I hated it (which I figured would be the case) I would quit the book. Well, I enjoyed Saving Fish immensely. My favorite books transport me ...more
Jenny Shank

Author Tan back in the swim
'Fish' departs from Chinese-American tales, features Chaucer spin
Jenny Shank, Special to the News
Published October 28, 2005 at midnight

Amy Tan's last book, 2003's nonfiction collection The Opposite of Fate, closed with an essay about her struggle with Lyme disease. Tan described increasingly alarming symptoms, including joint pain, difficulty with organization, and visual hallucinations, and she left her fans with a cliff hanger:
Hildred Billings
Well, it only took two months, but I finished "Saving Fish From Drowning," the final Amy Tan novel. And one of my favorites.

So why did it take me so long to finish reading this a second time? To the point where I lost ALL WILL to read at all for two months?

Because this is a thick, slogging book of intensity.

"Fish" is not an easy read. Oh, sure on a micro level it is. There's not too many hard ideas and certainly no difficult words or sentences to trod through, but on a macro scale it's brain suc
Apr 25, 2008 Carissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i listened to this on audio, read by the author. i love amy tan, but they really should have found a professional reader. ms. tan has several different characters with british or australian accents and her accents are all over the place and very distracting. that being said, the book was enjoyable. i felt like the ending dragged on a bit long (you know how most of the time, when you’re done reading a book , you sit back and wonder, “and then what? what happens next? well, you don’t have to wonde ...more
May 11, 2009 Margie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Margie by: Margery
Shelves: fiction
A bit outside Tan's usual scope. Not bad, but not great, either.
Linda  Branham Greenwell
I've read several reviews of this book and people seem to either love it or hate it
I loved it
The characters are full and believable - I feel as if I have known them all for years
Ms. Tan chooses as her storyteller the ghost of Bibi Chen,a wealthy art patron, who has just met an untimely and violent death. Bibi had already organized an art and culture tour for a number of her longtime friends that had planned to follow the fabled Burma Road from Lijiang in southwestern China (claimed by some to b
Sep 11, 2008 Kellie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2006-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rob Russin
I really wasn't expecting much from this one, considering how many Amy Tan fans were disappointed in it. I finished reading it this morning, though, and even though I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it yet, I think that it's going to be one of those ones that sticks with me.

I've been a huge fan of Amy Tan for years, and I've read everything she's ever written. I feel uncomfortable comparing this book to her other ones, because it's such a huge departure. As much as I love Amy, her books did
Larry Bassett
I listened to this audio CD as I drove from home in central Virginia to visit my Dad in southeastern Michigan. I missed one turn in Ohio due to distracted driving and decided that this is not the best way to experience a book. I did find some humor and satire in the listening but think that I will still keep the actual book on my shelf to read one day. I had some special interest in the book when I realized that its setting is in Burma, a country much in the news recently. The book was published ...more
Apr 02, 2014 Deb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, fiction
I really like Amy Tan's writing. She is an amazing storyteller and her tales are always laced with such wit and sly observations. In this farcical adventure, she tells the story of eleven "lucky", rich, intelligent,and somewhat spoiled Americans who have signed up for a journey that allows them to experience the sights, sounds, flavors, and culture of the famed Burma Road. The group is organized and was to be escorted by art patron Bibi Chen. However, misfortune steps in and Bibi dies a rather g ...more
Bill Currie
Jan 01, 2015 Bill Currie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
It is difficult for me to say why I felt this book only deserved a rating of three stars. Probably because Amy Tan has written such remarkable stories that I felt this was not necessarily lacking something but rather working too hard to tell the story.

From the first chapter I became agitated by her character portrayals. It worsened as the trip begun. Since I have traveled through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam with a small group, using public transportation most of the time and varied in age I
Jul 07, 2011 Pamela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hmm, had trouble deciding between a 3 star rating or a 4 star rating.

Let's put it this way: I really had fun reading this. It's very different for Tan, as many have said, and is flawed in many aspects (most notably for me, the characters are not well-nuanced and really are stereotypical, and many of the plot turns, especially toward the end, are quite silly and unbelievable).

Note I didn't find the conceit of a deceased narrator at all problematic; it worked for me. That's one of Tan's fortes. Th
Jan 01, 2011 Hsingwa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very different to Tan's usual works in tone - I didn't expect that much satire from her, which this book clearly is, not despite its serious undertones and the heart she at times seems to have for her characters, but all the more because of it.
Written earlier, this book can still be read as an antidote to books like "Eat, Pray, Love" - in the end, the travellers will have found a lot for, or found out a lot about themselves, but the people they met were mostly "Fish Saved From Dro
I so enjoyed this Amy Tan novel. I've read The Joy Luck Club, The Bone Setter's Daughter, and Saving Fish From Drowning, and Saving Fish is by far my favorite. Who wouldn't love Bibi Chen, the witty narrator whose untimely demise prevents her from leading the tour group and keeping them out of trouble, but whose comments keep us in the know. The setting of Myanmar is perfect for the mysterious and miscommunications that keep this novel so interesting. I think Saving Fish From Drowning is as ente ...more
Mar 11, 2011 Merry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I picked this up in my library as part of a random assault on the shelves to find people I hadn’t read before. (So far, a rule of thumb seems to be ‘shelves fine, ignore stand on the way in, ignore all free standing round things, round things at end of shelves good, shelf on way out also good. On no account get anything where there are more than 6 things by the same author in one place. This may be another prejudice but I’m still in library rehab, so let me be).

I was quite pleased that coming ho
May 11, 2012 Licha rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-pick
I'm somewhat confused about whether I liked this book or not. I wasn't sure if I was reading a story based on true events since the story starts with the author's note about how this story came to be. The story is about 12 Americans taking a trip to Burma. Only problem is that their tour guide has died right before they are to go on their trip. They decide to go anyway. The story slowly builds up, giving the back story on all the characters involved. Accompanying the group is the ghost of the re ...more
Rowland Bismark
This book has all the ingredients for a wonderful novel. And it almost succeeds. But, alas, it doesn't. It's a fine book, mind you, a page turner once you've gotten half way through, but Tan fails in a few specific ways. First, her characters are cartoonish and never really achieve Pinochian humanism. They are characterizations of generally the worst, shallowest of human characteristics. Granted, a book has only so much room and Tan tries to fill it with many characters but she either tries too ...more
Mary Lou
Jun 16, 2011 Mary Lou rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lo-bookgroup, 2011
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah Brock
Feb 23, 2013 Sarah Brock rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is entertaining and easy to read. I enjoyed Amy Tan's narrative style. I selected this book based on my previous experience reading Tan's novels and short stories. It is not political, as I thought it might have been at the outset. The story revolves around a host of characters and their foibles as they travel around south west Asia. The politics of Myanmar/Burma are referenced as it helps the story along; they do not drive the story.

The story is long, but it keeps a good pace the whol
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An Asian tour group gone bad 18 87 Jul 29, 2012 12:31PM  
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Amy Tan (Chinese: 譚恩美; pinyin: Tán Ēnměi; born February 19, 1952) is an American writer whose works explore mother-daughter relationships and what it means to grow up as a first generation Asian American. In 1993, Tan's adaptation of her most popular fiction work, The Joy Luck Club, became a commercially successful film.

She has written several other books, including The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hun
More about Amy Tan...

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