“Saving Fish From Drowning” Review

Warning: If you have not read “Saving Fish From Drowning” by Amy Tan, do not read this review unless you don’t mind spoilers or already read the book.

I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “Saving Fish From Drowning” by Amy Tan! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

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 tourists cruise across a misty lake and disappear.

With picaresque characters and mesmerizing imagery, Saving Fish from Drowning gives us a voice as idiosyncratic, sharp, and affectionate as the mothers of The Joy Luck Club. Bibi is the observant eye of human nature–the witness of good intentions and bad outcomes, of desperate souls and those who wish to save them. In the end, Tan takes her readers to that place in their own heart where hope is found.”

I liked the character of Bibi. The book takes place in her perspective as of how she views the tourists and their journey, as well as the places they go to. Through reading in Bibi’s view, I felt that she was fleshed out. She had her likes, her dislikes, and other biases that made her fully rounded as a character despite being obviously dead.

I have mixed feelings about the other characters, however. There were some that I just plain disliked, and others that just felt like they were there because they were one of the tourists, not because they had a central point to the story. There are subplots involving some of the characters, such as Marlena, where we see a bit deeper into them as characters and tries to round them out rather than making them all flat. Despite those efforts, however, the characters felt underdeveloped.

In terms of the writing style of the book, I think the book was too balanced in terms of it being lighthearted as well as serious. The tourists hear about the atrocities committed by the military government and then forget about them in an isolated resort, for instance, or have those be buried in silly scenes like the visit to the temple in China, where the tourists conduct themselves in with bad behavior. The combination of tragedy and farce was too jarring, and I think the book could have been more serious, if anything.

The plot could have been more exciting, as well as more straightforward in the latter half. The plot made a bit of sense in the first half, but lost its sense of direction (much like how the tourists lose their sense of direction) in the latter half, which really disappointed me.

Overall, I would rate this book 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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