Amy Tan is the narrator as well, the first bit is an explaination of where the story line came from and how it developed. As your ear grows more accustomed to Ms. Tan's voice, it smoothes out the story and you don't want the CD to end. A fairly complex cast of characters, initially difficult to keep track of, but each has their own place in the story. I found myself wanting to verify historical and contempory events as the rich decriptions of a far away land were intriguing and amusing at the same time. An informative tale of a distant culture that became entwined with the west, very enjoyable, not light or cozy.
I thought this started out a bit slow & confusing but then got much better after the second disk (I think it had more to do with the history of the story before the story begins) - it was a good intriguing story I was listening both in my car & in my house because their were parts I didn't want to pause on. The finish was a fantastic surprise. Again I thought Amy Tan did a wonderful job of weaving a beautiful story that entwines it readers, her attention to detail is amazing and it allows you to easily visual what is happening. I love Amy Tan books but wasn't sure this one would be as interesting as others, so I opted for the CD copy instead of the book and I'm glad I did, otherwise I might not have gotten around to reading the book - and it is a story worth reading.
Amy Tan's lively reading of this audiobook lends dimension to the story. My only criticism has to do with the many little tangential back stories that, while enlightening, at times seem to disrupt the flow of the plot. The behaviors, words and eccentricities of the travelers vis a vis the part of the world they travel in speak for themselves. On the other hand, back stories about the Chinese and Burmese people added valuable insight into how two different cultures can clash at times and yet, at other times, demonstrate how kindness and a gesture of friendship make us all the more human no matter what part of the world we are in. I enjoyed Tan's idea of taking the twelve travelers completely out of their familiar spaces and thrusting them into places and situations where, almost totally defenseless, their perceptions of what is versus what "really" is are rocked to their core. I enjoyed listening to this book and recommend it.
I had a hard time getting through the first chapter of this book. It all became relevant later, but at the beginning I wasn't that interested in hearing about the narrator's childhood and funeral and all that. It was confusing and I think it should have been more integrated. Once the story delved into the tourist trip, the "dead narrator" device became interesting. Unfortunately, the tone continued to ramble up until the last third of the book. There would be times I was very interested in the storyline, but then the narrative would go flying off in some other direction and my mind would wander. The novel would have been better served if she'd stayed with the surprisingly compelling kidnapping plot, allowed herself to adopt the thriller conventions to her own use, and sacrificed a few chapters for relevance. I did love the way it ended, where she made it clear that the events of the book changed the lives of the characters, but did not totally remake the world or their worlds, individually. So the character notes were well done. Amy Tan employs a certain epigram-like writing style in this book and frequently drops in a little bite-sized line containing some poignant insight. The book overall is uneven, but it's an enjoyable book.
While not Amy Tan's best- It drags but the premise is good and it is different. If you like Amy Tan you will like this novel. I had a hard time with it but I actually love the narrator- Bibi and her sense of humor. I feel like she is truly an "Amy Tan" creation. I am also learning a lot from Bibi's tour guide teaching as well as her perspective on the other chracter's thoughts and ways. BUT I cannot relate to any of the other characters at all nor can I feel for them... so I trudged along with this book for Bibi...