The Vast Wasteland

Sheila's rantings, most likely of no interest, on TV, movies, books, music, etc.

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Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

I live in Seattle, am married, have two cats (one is a genius, the other insane), and am a mild-mannered copy editor by day. I love horseback riding, coffee, reading, TV, movies, music, playing (too much) World of Warcraft, and lying on the couch. This isn't a personal blog, but rather a place for me to vent about movies, TV shows, books, music, etc. Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Book Review: Saving Fish from Drowning

Warning: contains spoilers!

I loved Amy Tan's latest novel, and think it's her best in a long time. I've read all her books, and while I enjoy them, they sometimes seems like the same story written again and again. Mother issues, cultural acceptance issues, someone fleeing the Japanese in China--these elements keep popping up over and over in Tan's books. The narrator of Saving Fish from Drowning (who's dead, by the way) does have some mother issues, and did have to flee from China--but after one mention, the book moves on to other subjects, to my relief. (I was worried we'd be stuck in that same theme.)

The story is about a group of tourists who disappear in Burma. It's about what happens to them, how they change, and how their different personalities handle the stress of their situation (and its aftermath). It's also about a small tribe of Burmese living in the jungle--the tribe kidnaps the tourists, thinking one of them is the "Younger White Brother," the promised second-coming of a god. The tribe mixes regional beliefs with those of a twisted British missionary (actually a con man) who lived with the tribe's ancestors 100 years earlier. Tan also describes the lack of human rights in Burma (or Myanmar, I guess it's called now) and the horrible treatment of certain native ethnic groups by the military. After reading this book, I was happy to be American.

The voice-from-the-grave narration is wonderful--it provides snarky commentary and foreshadowing. Another thing I found interesting was the comparison between American Buddhism and Burmese Buddhism--Americans think Buddhism is about peace and gentleness, but in Burma, it's about next-life retribution and cruel punishments.

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