Title: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
# of Pages: 336
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Survival
Okay, so the fact that this book has recently been made into a movie may have been a large part of the reason why I decided that now was the perfect time to finally read it. I’m telling ya, I think I have a seriously problem–it’s like I just can’t stand to be out of the loop on anything. (That must stem back from my days as an awkward, unpopular middle schooler. Or maybe I’ll just permanently be in that mindset now that I’m teaching at one). The fact is, I picked this book up years ago when it first started flickering onto my “popular books radar,” but I had never even read the back of it to find out what it was about.
So imagine my surprise when I discover that it’s a book about a lone shipwreck survivor who is now waiting out his time on a lifeboat–along with a Bengal tiger, orangutan, hyena, and zebra. Pretty bizarre premise, right? When I first started reading the story, it took a little while for me to get into it. I liked how the book started out by saying, “I have a story that will make you believe in God”–I’m a sucker for a good spiritual twist–and I was intrigued by the fact that the main character followed the precepts of the Islam, Hindu, and Christian faiths. But when the book really started taking off for me, though, was the part when he was left stranded on the lifeboat.
I’ve never been a huge survival book junkie (although I won’t say that I’ve ever disliked the genre, either), but I will say, Life of Pi is no run-of-the-mill survival story. It is packed with rich layers of meaning (not to mention eerily bizarre events), and the ending made my head spin. For anyone who has already read it, you’ll understand what I mean when I say I couldn’t stop thinking, “Well is it? Or isn’t it?”
But here’s a more straightforward summary:
Pi Patel, a teenage boy growing up in India, is the son of a zookeeper whose fortunes are going the wrong way. Just as Pi is discovering himself in the various religions of the world, his family announces that they are all uprooting and moving to Canada. While Pi feels torn about the matter, he doesn’t have much choice either way, so he boards the Japanese ship that will carry them (along with a bunch of his father’s zoo animals) to their new home. When disaster strikes and the ship sinks, Pi suddenly finds himself clinging to life on a small lifeboat. But he is not alone, for on the other side of the boat, hiding under the benches, he sees it—a 450-pound Bengal tiger.What follows is his miraculous tale of survival, a story that will indeed “make you believe in God.”
Intrigued? You should be. This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and even though the premise is so crazy it’s almost laughable, somehow Martel makes it all seem as real as your eyes reading this screen right now. And even though all the religions play a more subtle role in this book than I thought they would, it is still clear from the beginning until the end–this tale of survival is nothing short of a divinely-wraught miracle. And actually, unless I misunderstood the endnote, it seems that this book was based on a real story.
Go read it—you won’t regret it!
My Rating: 4.5 Stars (out of 5). The only thing I’m marking it down for was that some parts were a little icky for my taste. But apparently, if you watch shows like Animal Planet (like my husband), you’ll get through them just fine.