Amy Tan is among our great storytellers. In each of her previous novels, she has seduced readers with the intimate magic of her tale. In “The Joy Luck Club” and “The Bonesetter’s Daughter,” she enthralled us with the painful complexity of human relationships, especially between mothers and daughters. Obscure parts of history became as immediate as the reader’s own experience; she made us breathe the air of other times and places.
Her newest novel, “Saving Fish From Drowning,” half spoof and half fairy tale, is narrated by Bibi Chen, a San Francisco socialite and art dealer who was supposed to lead a group of high-powered friends on a trip down the Burma Road, starting in Lijiang in China and continuing across the border into Myanmar, appreciating cultural sites and natural beauty along the way. Bibi Chen has died under mysterious circumstances, but the group goes off on the trip anyway, and Bibi goes along as a spirit, invisible to the travelers, only sporadically able to influence what is going on, but very much involved with – and frequently rather annoyed by – her friends and their choices. A quirky narrator, alternately omniscient and helpless, she is enthusiastic, colorful and spirited, but also self-important, snobbish and didactic.