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BookBrowse Reviews Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan

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Saving Fish From Drowning

by Amy Tan

Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan X
Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2005, 480 pages

    Paperback:
    Sep 2006, 512 pages

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A provocative new novel from the bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetter's Daughter

From the book jacket: On an ill-fated art expedition into the southern Shan state of Burma, eleven Americans leave their Floating Island Resort for a Christmas-morning tour - and disappear. Through twists of fate, curses, and just plain human error, they find themselves deep in the jungle, where they encounter a tribe awaiting the return of the leader and the mythical book of wisdom that will protect them from the ravages and destruction of the Myanmar military regime.
 
Filled with Amy Tan's signature "idiosyncratic, sympathetic characters, haunting images, historical complexity, significant contemporary themes, and suspenseful mystery" (Los Angeles Times), Saving Fish from Drowning seduces the reader with a façade of Buddhist illusions, magician's tricks, and light comedy, even as the absurd and picaresque spiral into a gripping morality tale about the consequences of intentions - both good and bad - and about the shared responsibility that individuals must accept for the actions of others.
 
Comment: Drawing comparisons to A Midsummer's Night Dream and The Canterbury Tales, reviewer opinion of Saving Fish From Drowning is mixed.  Publishers Weekly ('highly entertaining') and Booklist ('vitally realistic') gave it starred reviews, and Library Journal recommended it 'for all libraries'. However, the reviewers for The Washington Post and Kirkus were less enamored. 

Craig Nova, writing in The Washington Post, couldn't find one good thing to say about it.  However, while reading through the litany of things he didn't like I did start to wonder whether, perhaps, he'd lost sight of the fact that the characters in a book are the author's creations, and don't necessarily represent the author or her point of view, and need not be likeable or sympathetic.

The reviewer for Kirkus found many things to like but concluded that the "author's research ultimately smothers her story and characters", providing too much "historical and ethnographic detail about Burma".  That is, of course, a matter of opinion - if you,  like most BookBrowse members, enjoy books that inform while they entertain, I think you will find much to appreciate in Saving Fish From Drowning.

As always, you can judge for yourself by reading a very extensive excerpt at BookBrowse.

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in November 2005, and has been updated for the October 2006 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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