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The title of the book is derived from the practice of Myanmar fishermen who "scoop up the fish and bring them to shore. They say they are saving the fish from drowning. Unfortunately... the fish do not recover," This kind of magical thinking or hypocrisy or mystical attitude or sheer stupidity is a fair metaphor for the entire book. It may be read as a satire, a political statement, a picaresque tale with several "picaros" or simply a story about a tour gone wrong.
Bibi Chen, San Francisco socialite and art vendor to the stars, plans to lead a trip for 12 friends: "My friends, those lovers of art, most of them rich, intelligent, and spoiled, would spend a week in China and arrive in Burma on Christmas Day." Unfortunately, Bibi dies, in very strange circumstances, before the tour begins. After wrangling about it, the group decides to go after all. The leader they choose is indecisive and epileptic, a dangerous combo. Bibi goes along as the disembodied voice-over.
Once in Myanmar, finally, they are noticed by a group of Karen tribesmen who decide that Rupert, the 15-year-old son of a bamboo grower is, in fact, Younger White Brother, or The Lord of the Nats. He can do card tricks and is carrying a Stephen King paperback. These are adjudged to be signs of his deity and ability to save them from marauding soldiers. The group is "kidnapped," although they think they are setting out for a Christmas Day surprise, and taken deep into the jungle where they languish, develop malaria, learn to eat slimy things and wait to be rescued. Nats are "believed to be the spirits of nature--the lake, the trees, the mountains, the snakes and birds. They were numberless ... They were everywhere, as were bad luck and the need to find reasons for it." Philosophy or cynicism? This elusive point of view is found throughout the novel--a bald statement is made and then Tan pulls her punches as if she is unwilling to make a statement that might set a more serious tone.
There are some goofy parts about Harry, the member of the group who is left behind, and his encounter with two newswomen from Global News Network, some slapstick sex scenes and a great deal of dog-loving dialogue. These all contribute to a novel that is silly but not really funny, could have an occasionally serious theme which suddenly disappears, and is about a group of stereotypical characters that it's hard to care about. It was time for Amy Tan to write another book; too bad this was it. --Valerie Ryan
Tan is masterful in drawing one into the thoughts and experiences of her characters and leaving the reader with indelible memories. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Norah M. Sargent
This book was a rambling, esoteric disappointment. This will be my least liked Tan book. It is not the delectable fare that The Kitchen God's Wife was, for example. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mrsjpjp
I usually love Amy Tan's novels, but this one was disappointing. It's the tale of a mis-guided tour group gone wrong. Read morePublished 1 month ago by a reader
This is the first book that I couldn't wait to finish and subsequently, skimmed through the last 50 pages. There were way too many characters, places and events. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Lauren Plaza
A long story told by a dead woman about 12 lost travelers in Myanmar. Sounds confusing? It is. Although the writing is good, as is all of Amy Tan's work, the story jumps from one... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Valerie Allen
A wonderfully developed story, great characters interwoven with history and philosophy. There was so much to appreciate about the style, I'm looking forward to the next book.Published 2 months ago by Mary Belisle
It had been so long since I read The Joy Luck Club, I had forgotten what a great writer Amy Tan is. This book is far different from her other works, but I enjoyed it just as much. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Gettysburg Girl
The first half is terrific but then the story becomes obvious and a bit mannered. It could have been anywhere- maybe that is the point, the universality of the situation. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Traveller
Sometimes the slowness was painful. You do learn a little about the culture but there more exciting ways to do so. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Loren w Christensen