Friday, April 15, 2011

Amy Tan's Saving Fish from Drowning

I've been a huge fan of Amy Tan ever since reading a copy of her Joy Luck Club.  I then proceeded to collect all her other books and have been a loyal follower since. 

After a brief hiatus, she comes out with Saving Fish from Drowning.

Saving Fish from Drowning tells the story of 11 travellers who are lost in Burma.  Narrated through the eyes of Bibi Chen, a socialite who was originally the group's tour leader however, due to difficulties beyond her control (she died before the trip -- and yes, she appears as a ghost in this novel), she ends up looking after her friends while staying in a surreal world between the living and the dead (full summary here at

The book is full of the usual priviledged tourists who think that, due to their citizenship and wealth, gives them the right to act in accordance to what they think is right.  What they feel should be the norm is oftentimes frowned upon and unacceptable in other places, and for this, they deem a certain place "barbaric."

It is quite humurous to note that popular culture has devled into the deeper psyche of the poeple of even the most underdeveloped nations, most popularly narrated by the Jesus's army tribe's, a fictional Burmese tribe in the book, fascination and desire to star in their own version of a "Survivor"-like reality show.

In my opinion, character POVs in this tome are too numerous.  I have to admit, unlike other novels of Amy Tan's that I've read, and of which I was able to immediately finish within an average of 2 to 3 days, this took a lot of will power to finish from start to end.

There is always a saving grace though!  What I do love about Amy Tan books are the profound thoughts and insights she infuses into her narratives.  The "AHA moments" which engages the reader and makes you stop and ponder more.  Here are just a few of my favorites:

"Where ecological conservation has failed, commerce prevails."

"But how did you know whether your intention would help, or whether it would only lead to worse problems?"

In the end, all the characters came out of their experience with something profoundly life-altering.  But as life passes them by, these events become more and more placed into the background and eventually overshadowed by their more current concerns, however mundane in nature.

The book is a good read in understanding people's mannerisms and thoughts when placed in a situation they may deem "inappropriate" or "barbaric" -- totally not in accordance to what they are used to in society.  Numerous POVs aside, this tome delivers quite a number of AHA moments that do make this book a worthwhile addition to one's collection.

I give this 3 out of 5 stars.  =)

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