Saving Fish from Drowning

Version: Unabridged
Author: Amy Tan
Narrator: Amy Tan
Genres: Fiction & Literature, Literature
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published In: March 2015
# of Units: 15 CDs
Length: 16 hours, 39 minutes
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A pious man explained to his followers: "It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. 'Don't be scared, ' I tell those fishes. 'I am saving you from drowning.' Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes." - Anonymous
Twelve American tourists join an art expedition that begins in the Himalayan foothills of China - dubbed the true Shangri-La - and heads south into the jungles of Burma. But after the mysterious death of their tour leader, the carefully laid plans fall apart, and disharmony breaks out among the pleasure-seekers as they come to discover that the Burma Road is paved with less-than-honorable intentions, questionable food, and tribal curses.
And then, on Christmas morning, eleven of the travelers boat across a misty lake for a sunrise cruise - and disappear.
Drawing from the current political reality in Burma and woven with pure confabulation, Amy Tan's picaresque novel poses the question: How can we discern what is real and what is fiction, in everything we see? How do we know what to believe? Saving Fish from Drowning finds sly truth in the absurd: a reality TV show called Darwin's Fittest, a repressive regime known as SLORC, two cheroot-smoking twin children hailed as divinities, and a ragtag tribe hiding in the jungle - where the sprites of disaster known as Natslurk, as do the specters of the fabled Younger White Brother and a British illusionist who was not who he was worshipped to be.
With her signature "idiosyncratic, sympathetic characters, haunting images, historical complexity, significant contemporary themes, and suspenseful mystery" (Los Angeles Times), Amy Tan spins a provocative and mesmerizing tale about the mind and the heart of the individual, the actions we choose, the moral questions we might ask ourselves, and above all, the deeply personal answers we seek when happy endings are seemingly impossible.

Reviews (9)

2 and out

Written by Anonymous on June 2nd, 2015

  • Book Rating: 1/5

By the middle of disk two (of 15!) I knew I'd never finish the book. Too much uninteresting detail.

Saving Fish from Drowning

Written by Anonymous from Lakewood, CA on December 10th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 4/5

I really enjoyed this book. I am a big fan of Amy Tan. You feel like you are on this journey with the characters in the book. I highly recommend this book.

Saving Fish from Drowning

Written by Anonymous on December 7th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 1/5

I just couldn't get interested in this book...tried reading and listening to it. Just too boring.

Boring and Inaudible

Written by Debbie from Pittsburgh, PA on November 27th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 1/5

Hard to hear--she narrates her own book and does not enunciate--POOR FORM. Having said that, I was so bored by disc 10 that I could not bear another moment and sent it back. I did not care if the protagonists lived or died--so what's the point??

Good Writing/poor sound

Written by Writeguy99 on October 26th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 2/5

Amy Tan is an excellent writer, and I have always enjoyed her books. The writing for Saving Fish is also top notch. However, I would suggest she leave the reading of audio books to others, as the quality of reading was poor, as was the overall sound quality. I actually returned the audio book early bacause of the quality issues. I will leave it to finish the book in paper book form.

Saving Fish from Drowning

Written by Sue on September 21st, 2007

  • Book Rating: 4/5

I have long enjoyed Amy Tan's books, and this one was no exception. Her story is intriguing, as it is based on an actual event. It was made even more enjoyable because Ms. Tan is the narrator, no one else could have done a better job.


Written by Carol Ann Timmel on July 25th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 1/5

I couldn't follow this story at all. I almost fell asleep driving my car. I got through the first 2 CDs and couldn't wait to send back all 8. Don't waste your time... unless you're trying to fall asleep. I find a lot of these CDs would be better with the right reader. Amy's voice is sweet and soothing. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Difficult to Review

Written by Ann from Washington, DC on February 7th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 1/5

When I saw a brief summary of this book, I wondered if this book would appeal to me. I should have listened to my instincts as I just could not get into the story. I hesitate being critical as perhaps it will appeal to Amy Tan readers.

Only for die-hard Amy Tan Fans

Written by Angelika Teal from Northfield, NH on January 19th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 3/5

I am not really a fan for Amy Tan or specifically interested in the chinese or burmese culture and therefore may not be able to give fair judgement, but the book was very lengthy and it took me a few chapters to even understand where the book was heading to. Once I understood and the story was well on its way I started to get interested in the plight of the people in Burma and the atrocities committed by the military junta in former Burma. I liked how it was embedded in the story of 11 American tourists and the misunderstandings and mishaps on their trip through Burma and China. I also liked how it showed the reality about News Network castings and reality made by Hollywood and TV. The sad part is that it is the Burmese ethnic tribes are really the losers and the end of the book just stresses how hopeless the situation is for them. I liked the message of the book, but it could have been told in a lot less words.

Author Details

Author Details

Tan, Amy

"Amy Tan was born in Oakland, California. Her family lived in several communities in Northern California before settling in Santa Clara. Both of her parents were Chinese immigrants.

Her father, John Tan, was an electrical engineer and Baptist minister who came to America to escape the turmoil of the Chinese Civil War. The harrowing early life of her mother, Daisy, inspired Amy Tan's novel The Kitchen God's Wife. In China, Daisy had divorced an abusive husband but lost custody of her three daughters. She was forced to leave them behind when she escaped on the last boat to leave Shanghai before the Communist takeover in 1949. Her marriage to John Tan produced three children, Amy and her two brothers.

Tragedy struck the Tan family when Amy's father and oldest brother both died of brain tumors within a year of each other. Mrs. Tan moved her surviving children to Switzerland, where Amy finished high school, but by this time mother and daughter were in constant conflict.

Mother and daughter did not speak for six months after Amy Tan left the Baptist college her mother had selected for her to follow her boyfriend to San Jose City College. Tan further defied her mother by abandoning the pre-med course her mother had urged to pursue the study of English and linguistics. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees in these fields at San Jose State University. In 1974, she and her boyfriend, Louis DeMattei were married. They were later to settle in San Francisco.

DeMattei, an attorney, took up the practice of tax law, while Tan studied for a doctorate in linguistics, first at the University of California at Santa Cruz, later at Berkeley. By this time, she had developed an interest in the problems of the developmentally disabled. She left the doctoral program in 1976 and took a job as a language development consultant to the Alameda County Association for Retarded Citizens and later directed a training project for developmentally disabled children.

With a partner, she started a business writing firm, providing speeches for salesmen and executives for large corporations. After a dispute with her partner, who believed she should give up writing to concentrate on the management side of the business, she became a full-time freelance writer. Among her business works, written under non-Chinese-sounding pseudonyms, were a 26-chapter booklet called ""Telecommunications and You,"" produced for IBM.

Amy Tan prospered as a business writer. After a few years in business for herself, she had saved enough money to buy a house for her mother. She and her husband lived well on their double income, but the harder Tan worked at her business, the more dissatisfied she became. The work had become a compulsive habit and she sought relief in creative efforts. She studied jazz piano, hoping to channel the musical training forced on her by her parents in childhood into a more personal expression. She also began to write fiction.

Her first story ""Endgame,"" won her admission to the Squaw Valley writer's workshop taught by novelist Oakley Hall. The story appeared in FM, literary magazine, and was reprinted in Seventeen. A literary agent, Sandra Dijkstra, was impressed enough with Tan's second story ""Waiting Between the Trees,"" to take her on as a client. Dijkstra encouraged Tan to complete an entire volume of stories.

Just as she was embarking on this new career, Tan's mother fell ill. Amy Tan promised herself that if her mother recovered, she would take her to China, to see the daughter who had been left behind almost forty years before. Mrs. Tan regained her health and mother and daughter departed for China in 1987. The trip was a revelation for Tan. It gave her a new perspective on her often-difficult relationship with her mother, and inspired her to complete the book of stories she had promised her agent.

On the basis of the completed chapters and a synopsis of the others, Dijkstra found a publisher for the book, now called The Joy Luck Club. With a $50,000 advance from G.P. Putnam's Sons, Tan quit business writing and finished her book in a little more than four months.

Upon its publication in 1989, Tan's book won enthusiastic reviews and spent eight months on the New York Times best-seller list. paperback rights sold for $1.23 million. The book has been translated in 17 languages, including Chinese. Her subsequent novel, The Kitchen God's Wife (1991) confirmed her reputation and enjoyed excellent sales. Since then Amy Tan has published two books for children, The Moon Lady and The Chinese Siamese Cat and two novels The Hundred Secret Senses (1998) and her latest, The Bonesetter's Daughter (2001). "