September 21, 2008

Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan

This was a strange book. The narrator was unusual, the spirit of a dead woman following her friends around as they travel through China and Burma. This isn't totally unheard of, many people read The Lovely Bones, which has a similar point of view. Personally I didn't like The Lovely Bones, but the narrative was only a small part of the reason for my dislike.

To make the narration even stranger, Tan purports that this point of view came from actual supernatural events. In a forward she describes popping into a metaphysical library of sorts to shelter from a storm and began thumbing through some literature about automatic writing. She found some writings by a woman who claimed she wrote it in a trance and came under the influence of a dead woman by the name of Bibi Chen, a woman who had really lived, Tan having been familiar with her. She contacted the writer for more information, and everything the writer said fell in line with what Tan knew about Chen.

Intriguing, eh?

Only the intrigue pretty much stops there. I'm not sure how much of the book was based on anything that actually involved Chen, or was "written" posthumously by Chen, or if it's just all fiction Chen inspired in Tan.

In the novel, Chen is an esteemed patron of the arts in San Francisco as well as the owner of a successful import shop. She's planned a trip through China and Burma for a group of her Arts-loving friends, but dies mysteriously and suddenly just a few days before they are to leave. Her friends decide to carry on without her, but by doing so forego her guidance and thorough knowledge of the places they are about to visit.

Many of their misadventures are humorous, but I wasn't sure whether I ought to be laughing or not. Tan isn't usually a writer of humor, so it was difficult to gage whether I ought to be upset or appalled by certain events.

Also, the situations the group gets into, which are pretty convoluted but believably so, seem like they're intended to teach a lesson. But if they do teach a lesson, it's "yeah, the world sucks, oh well, let's go to Starbucks." And you never really find out what happens to Chen. She just floats around her friends the whole time, occasionally attempting to influence their actions via entering their dreams. You do find out how she died, which turns out to be completely uninteresting, but not what happens to her spirit after all is said and done. In the end I just didn't see the point of Chen's presence in the story. It's like she was thrown in for the intrigue value, but the story wouldn't have been any different without her.

I would recommend this for entertainment purposes, but not if you're the sort that likes everything to make sense or have some sort of point.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my, I LOVE your blog! I'm so glad Ronnica stopped by my blog...thank you! I'm adding you to my blog roll now, and can't wait to have some time to fully explore your site!


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