Thursday, June 07, 2007

Review of "Saving Fish From Drowning" by Amy Tan

Anonymous - 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 scare," 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."

When I saw a book by Amy Tan, a master storyteller, I was already intrigued but the title totally sold me. This may have been one of the strangest stories that I have read in a while: based on a true story of a tourist group that gets lost, it is narrated by the ghost of the woman who was supposed to have led the tour but was murdered and who was also an intriguing woman in her own right. The characters are all wonderful and real, and clash along the way to getting lost. For anyone who has gone on long trips in close quarters, you feel as if you are on that bus ride - irritated, quietly laughing at others, snickering at the inside jokes, and suffering with the setbacks.

The story grips you because you know you are heading for certain tragedy and keeps plunging toward that destination, dragging you along with it. I had one of the strangest feelings I have ever had reading this book: I didn't want to finish it because of what I thought might happen, yet I couldn't stop.

The Albert Camus quote at the front lays out the theme for the story, and for our lives: "The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding." Unfortunately, we rarely, truly understand each other.

Digg this

1 comment:

armorscholar/装甲儒生 said...

Nice review. I love Amy Tan too. Saving Fish From Drowning is surely her fresh fictional experiment, which I consider a success indicating her further and upper steps towards a literary gaint status. Good to find you. I am just working on my master degree dissertation about this novel and would like to communicate with more friends fond of Tan.