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Saving Fish from Drowning

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  27,059 Ratings  ·  2,702 Reviews
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 t ...more
Paperback, Ballantine Reader's Circle, 472 pages
Published September 26th 2006 by Ballantine Books (first published 2005)
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Altair Amy I have read 3 of your books and loved all3, but this one I am giving up on. Here is why: audiobook - the reader swallows the endings of words and…moreAmy I have read 3 of your books and loved all3, but this one I am giving up on. Here is why: audiobook - the reader swallows the endings of words and I cannot hear or follow the story. Even when I listened to CD #3 - 2 times, I could not figure out what you were reading. Your voice gets so whispering at times that it disappears from the text. Maybe poor quality microphone or recording - I cannot hear a LOT of the text - and I have excellent hearing. Please consider re recording it - try again. (less)
Rick Bavera In my opinion, it applies to the book, and to life in general, by showing that sometimes our "help" for a situation does more harm, or introduces more…moreIn my opinion, it applies to the book, and to life in general, by showing that sometimes our "help" for a situation does more harm, or introduces more chaos, than if we were to just let things be as they are. (less)

Community Reviews

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Jun 21, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 02, 2007 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
Jan 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 18, 2009 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
Sep 04, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 28, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Cindy Knoke
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
May 30, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Feb 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Apr 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Amy Tan's Saving Fish from Drowning is the first Tan book I've ever had the pleasure of reading, and it's safe to say it will most certainly not be the last. At times dreamy, at times direct and to the point, Tan's surreal and harrowing tale of adventure oftentimes seems almost to enter the realm of magical realism. I must say that this book was one of the most effortless reads I have ever dived into - not once did I ever find myself having to glance back a page or pause to figure out what was h ...more
Hildred Billings
Jun 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Book Concierge
From the book jacket Twelve American tourists join an art expedition that begins in the Himalayan foothills of China 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 ...more
Feb 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
this is the first book i read the intro, and i am glad i did. the author was wandering in nyc when rain forced her to seek refuge in the American Psychical Institute. there she found a volume on "automatic writing," in which there was a factual decription of a woman who was experiencing auto writing from a woman Bibi Chen. Bibi Chen was not an imagined person - she was an actual person that Amy Tan knew. The writings are further authenticated because the subject matter was the recent disappearan ...more
Description: 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 tourists cruise across a misty lake and disappear.

With picaresque characters and mesmerizing imagery, Saving Fis
Jenny Shank
Nov 29, 2010 rated it liked it

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:
Apr 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2006-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 11, 2009 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.
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I purchased this book at our library used book sale for one dollar and it gave me such pleasure to read it. Amy Tan's pages are filled with quirky people, exotic adventures, nail-biting suspense. She seems fascinated by the clash of cultures in the hinterlands of Asia. We follow a group of American travelers from China to Burma where they fall into a cultural abyss that takes them back a century in time. Initially the Americans are concerned with their creature comforts - what is for dinner ...more
Gerti Wouters
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ik heb al veel gelezen van Amy Tan, maar dit boek is anders dan de vorige. Enerzijds een persiflage op georganiseerde groepsreizen naar exotische landen, anderzijds een spannend verhaal van een groep Amerikanen die ontvoerd worden in Myanmar door een onderdrukte stam, omdat zij geloven dat een van de toeristen hun verlossende god is. Uiteindelijk blijkt hun bijgeloof niet zo anders dan de goedgelovigheid van de toeristen. Fijn om te lezen, grappig, spitsvondig... Tegelijkertijd geeft het boek ee ...more
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Já li este livro há algum tempo, mas gostei muito!
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a very enjoyable read for me! I liked how she used humour to write about injustice, and there was quite a bit of exploration of how how different people can have vastly different perspectives on the same events.
Mar 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Robert Russin
Dec 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-of-2007
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
Nov 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ignoring any preconceived expectations I had from reading other books by Amy Tan, I simply expected originality in the tale and a demonstration of her understanding of humanity. I feel she pulled it off, and it was a hard task to convey the scope of the story. Possibly it could have been edited to be a tad less slow moving and the characterisations got a little tedious, but with so many main players this helped me keep track of who was who. The pace was sluggish and the book hard to get into at ...more
Karly Noelle Noelle
Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
While a definite-and somewhat welcome- departure from Amy Tan's usual fare and themes, this novel, though ambitious in its social and political commentary and large cast of characters, does not deliver either the thoughtfulness or memorability of her other work. This is largely due to the fact that the book spends a lot of time talking about how characters are feeling, rather than showing, and characters are developed in random spurts rather than linearly, the story moving in a rather disjointed ...more
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Play Book Tag: Saving Fish From Drowning / Amy Tan - 3*** 3 12 Nov 10, 2016 04:54AM  
An Asian tour group gone bad 18 90 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
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