Saving Fish From Drowning: Review

Newton's Third Law of Motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Newton's law could apply to Amy Tan's Saving Fish From Drowning. It's a peculiar novel told from the omnipresent point of view of a dead woman. Bibi, an art patron, died under mysterious circumstances in the window of her shop. She had been arranging a trip along the Burma Road for eleven of her friends. Those friends make the unfortunate decision to make the trip without her. Well, physically at least, spiritually Bibi is with them every step of the way. She knows their fears, doubts and secrets. She helplessly watches as these people make one mistake after another, changing her plans, flying by the seat of their pants. This is not a good idea in this part of the world.

At first, the mistakes make for some amusing (to the reader) situations: a bad case of the runs, being chased out of a monument mistaken for a bathroom. It's all rather silly. But every little thing adds up leading to the eleven disappearing into the jungle. That's when the story gets interesting.

Some of the characters, I'm thinking of Harry the dog trainer who looked at women like they needed taming, were hard to like. Bibi and the two kids were the most likeable to me. The rest were a bunch of head-scratching nitwits.

This was my first Amy Tan book. I'm sure there are better choices than this one. I did enjoy it at times, but some of it bordered on ridiculous. Could eleven very intelligent people be that careless and foolish? I don't know. The story bounced from silly to incredibly sad. It felt mish-mashed together.



  1. I have The Bonesetter's Daughter at home...I was thinking about picking it up soon. I don't know much about Tan though.

  2. I just love Amy Tan, but I've heard nothing but bad stuff about this one. I don't know what the deal is, but I wouldn't give up if I were you. I LOVED the Bonesetter's Daughter. I listened to it on tape while commuting and Amy read it herself. It was just wonderful...

  3. I had pretty high expectations b/c I heard that she was so good. I was disappointed but I will try another one of hers.

  4. Excellent use of Newton's Law! I love Newton's Laws - I teach high school physics. Too bad the book wasn't great; I read the Kitchen God's Wife years ago.

  5. I have read all of Amy Tan's books, and this one was definitely...different...from the rest of her work. She is a fantastic author, and I recommend reading The Joy Luck Club (they made a movie, but it's not the same) and some of her other books with their very insightful mother/daughter themes and fascinating peak at American-Chinese culture. I read her biography last year, and that was interesting, too.

  6. I just finished this book and agree with your review. It is the first book by Amy Tan that I have read so I am interested in reading her other work to compare and contrast.

  7. This is the first book that Amy Tan wrote since her mother died. She wrote that all of her other books were mainly spoken storiesby her mother. Her other books are really quite wonderfull. They are very authentic to her culture, but this one just is too americanized thoughts of china. I don't think Tan will write any more really books. it is quite sad.


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