Fish tales

When choosing a vacation spot, Burma wouldn't exactly make my Top 50. Oh, sure, it's gorgeous and culturally rich. But there's something about repressive military dictatorships that just doesn't scream "fun in the sun."

Eleven pleasure-seeking Americans think differently in Amy Tan's new novel, "Saving Fish From Drowning," a somewhat successful mix of satire and the supernatural.

Their tour leader, Bibi Chen, died under mysterious circumstances two weeks before the trip began, but the group presses on anyway. (The result is like "Gilligan's Island" with no professor.) However, as our ghost narrator, Bibi decides to tag along in spirit. Funny, opinionated, and full of herself, she is more vivacious after death than any of her friends are in life, which presents a problem when she vanishes for large parts of the book.

After a disastrous stay in China, in which they contract dysentery and defile a religious shrine on the same day, the group decides to head to Burma early. There they're abducted by a tribe who believes one of them is a reincarnated god. Somehow, the Americans spend weeks trapped in the mountains without realizing they've been kidnapped, one of several unbelievable plot twists.

Not nearly as moving as "The Joy Luck Club" or "The Bonesetter's Daughter," Tan's newest still has enough signature touches to keep her most loyal fans reading till the end. Grade: C+

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