Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Addiction and Amy Tan

“I’ll just go in to get the birthday cards,” I said to myself, but the moment I opened the large brass-handled swinging doors, my heart started pounding, my breath came faster and like a moth to the flame, I headed straight toward that huge pile of “Best Sellers” just inside the door.

Mentally slapping myself and forcing myself back on the planned path, I forced myself away from the new arrivals and towards the cards. But oh, the temptations along the path . . . new sudoku. . . .oh a new Gregory Maguire . . . oh! oh! oh!

With great discipline, I manage to buy the cards and only two new books, a new Stephen King book, hot off the press, (my son had mentioned it and that it was getting great reviews) and the new Amy Tan book. Rationalization – I am returning to Kuwait and it is a looooooooooooonnnnnngggggg trip, easily a two book trip. But when you have an addiction, any excuse will do.


Amy Tan is always a rollicking good read. For one thing, her books focus on that big favorite theme of mine, cross cultural communication – and miscommunication. She has a keen eye, rapier sharp wit, and filets her characters neatly, but humanely.

Saving Fish from Drowning is about a tour group en route to China and Burma, told from the point of view of the tour group organizer – an art and museum patron who dies before the trip begins! She is with the group, however, in spirit – able to see everything, know what people are thinking, but not to intervene. Without her guidance, the group goes desperately awry – and it is funny, but also very very scary. You know something BAD is going to happen, and it isn’t going to be pretty.

Tan writes some great prose. Here is an excerpt about the main character, as she looks back over her life:

“But I ask myself now – was there ever a true great love? Anyone who became the object of my obsession and not simply my affections? I honestly don’t think so. In part, this was my fault. It was my nature, I suppose. I could not let myself become that unmindful. Isn’t that what love is – losing your mind? You don’t care what people think. You don’t see your beloved’s faults, the slight stinginess, the bit of carelessness, the occasional streak of meanness. You don’t mind that he is beneath you socially, educationally, financially and morally – that’t the worst I think, deficient morals.

“I always minded. I was always cautious of what could go wrong, and what was already “not ideal.” I paid attention to the divorce rates. I ask you this: What’s the chance of finding a lasting marriage? Twenty percent? Ten? Did I know any woman who excaped from having her heart crushed like a recyclable can? Not a one. From what I have observed, when the anesthesia of love wears off, there is always the pain of consequences. You don’t have to be stupid to marry the wrong man.”

Whew! Amy! You said a mouthful!

October 26, 2006 - Posted by | Adventure, Books, Cross Cultural, Fiction, Shopping


  1. “unmindful. Isn’t that what love is – losing your mind?”!!!

    What greater thing is there for two human souls that to feel that they are joined… to strengthen each other… to be at one with each other in silent unspeakable memories.

    I disagree totally with you here. I believe if people fail to find true love on earth; they will almost fail too, in knowing how to love God!

    Loving someone & people in general can be our license to heaven in the hereafter. I believe in that very much so!



    How Do I Love Thee?

    (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

    How do I love thee?
    Let me count the ways.
    I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
    My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
    for the ends of Being and Ideal Grace.
    I love thee to the level of every day’s
    Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
    I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
    I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise;
    I love thee with the passion put to use
    In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith;
    I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
    With my lost saints – I love thee with the breath,
    Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God choose,
    I shall but love thee better after death.

    Comment by JOAN OF ARC | October 26, 2006 | Reply

  2. Tee hee hee ya khalti,

    when I was little my paternal grandfather had a ‘fun’ license plate on the back of his car (Massachusetts used to require that each car show only one license plate, in the front, oddly enough, or perhaps it was in the back and my memory is reversed). it said: I’d rather be sailing.

    If I could find a plate that said: I’d rather be reading, I would post it proudly.

    love petite a.

    Comment by adiamondinsunlight | October 26, 2006 | Reply

  3. Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.

    Comment by JOAN OF ARC | October 26, 2006 | Reply

  4. Joan – I think we also all know women who have taken a hard look at marriage and have chosen – as this main character has indicated – to pass on candidates who don’t live up to her idea of what a husband would/could/should be. And sometimes when a woman (or a man) has said “pass” a time or two, suitable candidates for marriage become fewer and fewer.

    Love is complicated – after the “mindlessness” has passed, we are left, as Amy Tan states, with the consequences. If we are really lucky, really blessed, we have a good, lasting marriage. Even in a good marriage, it seems to me, there can be times we crush one another’s hearts, or spirits (like the recyclable can) through negligence, through a careless word, in anger . . sometimes those hurts can be healed, and sometimes they are fatal to the relationship. This is just how it seems to me.

    The books that scare me are those romance novels that set up unrealistic expectations for relationships and marriages. Part of the joy of being married for a long time is learning how to partner, and that takes a lot of rubbing together until the rough edges are smoothed. 😉 Part of that process is getting through the tough times together, and knowing that tough times are a part of life.

    And that’s what I love about Amy Tan – she helps us laugh at some of the tougher things in life – friction between Mother and Daughter, misunderstanding between husband and wife, terror of death – she helps us to laugh at ourselves and our worst fears.

    Comment by intlxpatr | October 27, 2006 | Reply

  5. Dear Friend,

    It must be said first, that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. Amy Tan is free to speak her opinion while others might listen. & like Stephen King said; fiction is the truth inside the lie! I also believe that life is what we make of it; no matter how hard it treat us sometimes. Indeed.

    Love in Islam

    What is love and how does one achieve it? Love is something so complex that no words can define it. There are many meanings and forms and types of ‘love.’ Does the love for others mean kindness and affection, having moral nobility, and human respect, not a means of satisfying carnal desires and material whims? Is true love for others a feeling of affection which is free of motivation, pollution of thought, selfishness, and material interests? Is love conformant with the loftiness of spirit, the purity of mind, and intensity different for human beings than it is for the remainder of the animal kingdom? Does love remove the quality of animalism and savagery from an individual, give assurance and security, create an environment of peace and joy, and make life attractive and pleasant?

    Concept of love in Islam

    In Islam, love is first for Allah, occupying the heart and conscience in such a way that it overwhelms everything else. It was said by a sage: “I never saw a thing but I saw GOD before it, after it, and along with it.” The Glorious Quran says: [2:165] “Those who believe are stauncher in (their) love for GOD.”

    Second, the faithful harbour an intense love for Prophet Muhammad. This love in manifested by a desire to follow and imitate his example. The Glorious Quran says: [3:31] “Say O’ Our Prophet, If ye do love GOD, then you should follow me, GOD will then love you, and forgive your sins, GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.”

    Third, Islam advocates brotherly love in faith. Human beings can live in blessing and kindness so long as they love each other, show trust-worthiness, and behave according to truth and fairness. This brotherly love in faith also establishes good relations in society when it is done with sincerity and affection. In short, heartfelt love is simply sharing Islam. It is reported that a person was sitting beside Prophet Muhammad when his friend happened to passed by. This man told Prophet Muhammad: “I love that man for the sake of GOD.” Prophet Muhammad asked him if he had told his friend that, and the man answered in the negative. The man stood up, stopped his friend, and told him, “I love you for the sake of GOD.” His friend replied: “I love you the way you love for His sake.” It is reported that GOD loves that His servant salute one another clearly and openly.

    This is the love in Islam. No words can define it. It’s something so enigmatic, that only GOD could design it and He alone comprehends it. Wonder of wonders, it is beyond man’s conception. Only in GOD can love find true perfection, for love is enduring, patient and kind. It judges all things with the heart, not the mind. Love can transform the most commonplace into beauty and splendor and sweetness and grace. Love is unselfish, giving more than it takes, being unconditional and unhampered by environment. Love never forsakes, it’s faithful and trusting, truthful. It is guileless and honest and never deceiving. Love is GOD’s Divine Gift.

    Comparison to love of the world

    On the other hand, there is the love of the world. Love of the world leads to a stage where a person can not see anything but the world before it, after it, and along with it. Every thought and action is for some worldly gain. Such a person cannot devote himself to pious deeds for more than a few days. It is said that this world is like sea water. The more one drinks of it, the more one gets thirsty.

    If this self-love is reinforced, it becomes more intense, exceeds the limit of expediency, and consequently turns into egoism and selfishness; producing great evil, polluting the person with many vices which leads to the violation of the rights of others, and promoting anti-human deeds. The only love between a man and a woman that achieves fruition is that between a husband and a wife. The love and compassion between a husband and a wife is a gift from GOD.

    In our world, there can be no value in anything that does not earn GOD’s good pleasure. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to confine our efforts to seeking the next world, for this world has no value to us. We ask the Mighty Lord to purify our hearts, and to brighten us with faith – Amen.

    Comment by JOAN OF ARC | October 27, 2006 | Reply

  6. Hm m m mm. . . I think we agree about love of God. And I also think that from Adam and Eve, the relationship has had its difficulties. . . .

    And oh! this is such a good book!

    Comment by intlxpatr | October 27, 2006 | Reply

  7. This morning Saving Fish From Drowning kept me company on a looong flight to Seattle. what a great read! merci kteer ya khalti!

    Comment by adiamondinsunlight | November 1, 2006 | Reply

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