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Saving Fish from Drowning

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  29,891 ratings  ·  2,908 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)

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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
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
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
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
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
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. ...more
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 to p ...more
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
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
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
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:
Melissa Stacy
DNF on page 66 (of 472 pages total)

Amy Tan's 2005 novel, "Saving Fish from Drowning," has been sitting on my bookshelf for years, and I finally picked it up tonight to give it a go.

But there is *nothing* appealing to me in this book. The main character, a middle-aged woman named Bibi, is already dead on page one, narrating the story as a ghost, and since Bibi is largely emotionless, dully unflappable and irreverent about her own murder, there are *zero* narrative stakes in the book. Bibi makes i
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
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
2.5 stars

This book partly isn't my cup of tea & partly it's tedious. I couldn't really get into the story or any of the characters. The first half of the book is very slow and it took me a long time to read it, the second half is a little better, more interesting.
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
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
La Tonya  Jordan
Mar 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everybody
Recommended to La Tonya by: Circle of Friends
Shelves: good-read
This was an intelligently written first novel. The characters were strange and plus several of the characters you could not get a sense for until the end. The journey described was full of various adventures which left the reader wondering what is going on. But, the writing was superb.

Life Lesson: We all must find our place in life for God to take over.

I wish this novel lived up to it's name. Instead of Saving Fish from Drowning as it claimed, this story slowly suffocated. Amy Tan let it flip flop all over the place in front of you, and then, when you thought it couldn't possibly still be alive, it would spring up and kinda flop over again.

The story is apparently about a woman called Bibi (which is a ridiculous name... no offence to any one reading called Bibi, you can't help your parents). She's dead. That's not a spoiler, it happens on page
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
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
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. ...more
Stef Rozitis
I liked aspects of this book. I loved a whole section in the middle, where it became so surreal and the tangled ironies were as so dense (reminiscent of the Burmese jungle) that I decided to treat it as a comedy. That was fine until everyone got rescued and the ending was far too long and drawn out (and boring).

I did like the narrator, she was a real personality and reminded me of Lee Lin Chin in a way, she seemed like she was half satirising herself even as there was a real person (fictional I
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
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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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