Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: Saving Fish From Drowning

Unlike most people on the planet who read Amy Tan, the first novel I read of hers was not The Joy Luck Club {though, I am currently reading it, and am in love}. You see, I don't really get to go to bookstores here. I read mainly on my Kindle {both purchased and library books} and books that I borrow from other bibliophiles. But one day, I was in Beijing, in my favorite little bookshop, and ran across Saving Fish From Drowning. Even though I hardly need to buy anymore books {story of my life}, I couldn't resist.

The novel opens with the narrator, Bibi Chen, explaining that she has been murdered. She doesn't know who hr killer is, and neither do the police. Her death was especially untimely: Bibi was set to lead a group of Americans through China and Burma, a several-weeks-long adventure of a lifetime.

Now, the group is faced with a conundrum: to go, or cancel the trip? The group decides to go, if only because Bibi would have wanted them to {and, because despite her urging, they neglected to purchase trip insurance}. Their adventure through isolated national parks, never-before-open-to-foreigners borders, and small villages deep in the jungle is enough excitement to last a lifetime. Of course, nothing is as simple as all that, and towards the end of their trip, most of the group goes missing deep in the jungles of Myanmar causing an international media sensation. Through it all, Bibi's spirit follows the group, helps where she can, and brings a multiple-person perspective to this story.

I admit, although I devoured this novel, I found it hard to start. The first few pages were gripping enough, but it was maybe about 100 before I really felt like I could dive in and never look back. This novel was fun in the sense that anyone who has ever been on a group trip has experienced some of the personalities that are part of the story. The couple that can't figure itself out; the germaphobe; the inconsiderate clod who makes everyone else look bad. We've all been there!

More than that, I just loved all of the random things that happened to these folks. As a frequent traveler {and an expat} myself, some of these situations hit pretty close to home. Others? Far-fetched for sure, but a good reminder that research is everything on a trip. In all, this was a fun, fast-paced story that has enticed me to read more of Amy Tan. It's a solid novel.


  1. That book has been on my radar but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Thanks for the great review, might bump it up on my to-read list.

  2. Cool. I haven't read an Amy Tan book in years, but I really enjoyed the few novels of hers that I read. I think I purchased this book used awhile ago, and it's sitting in my "on deck" pile. I may have to move it to the top! Thanks for the review!