Book Report: Life of Pi

Read 01.2011:
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Category: Fiction
Tags: Philosophy, Zoology, Survival, Sea

This book has been on my radar since it was released…and although it wasn’t at the top of my list, it was something that I eventually wanted to read.

Hmm. I don’t know what to think. This book – it left my brain feeling a little numb (if that is the correct word). I felt that I ended up digesting most of the book paragraph by paragraph instead of chapter by chapter. The beginning is a bit dry – about the first 80 pages were hard for me to get through. I suppose mainly because I do not usually read religious or philosophical books. The main character, an adolescent boy, explores comparative religions: Muslim, Hindu, and Christianity. He ends up practicing all three because he feels that they all benefit him in different ways. However, upon saying that it was a bit slow, I also believe the beginning is essential in setting the “setting.”

Then there is the main part of the book. When Pi Patel is sixteen, his family and their zoo animals emigrate from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship. The ship sinks, and Pi finds himself in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and a 450 pound Bengal tiger. Pi’s fear, knowledge, and cleverness keep him alive.

There is a twist in the last 1/3 of the book that really makes you shake your head. And I mean that you have to sweep out the cobwebs and really think about the first 2/3 that you already read! I was shocked at the ending.  Kind of like one of those twists at the end of a psychological movie. I don’t think a book has ever really done that to me. It was utterly original – and completely weird – but I suppose that is what makes it.

According to Life of Pi isn’t just a simple adventure story. The book’s final pages include a revelation that brings the rest of Pi’s fantastic story into question. But instead of seeming silly and fraudulent, as such twists often do, the ending makes the rest of the story that much more meaningful. At its core, the book is about man’s relationship to animals, and his relationship to God (Pi, as the book explains in some detail, is Hindu, Islam and Christian). Most importantly, the book is about faith – about how believing something sincerely can make it, if not completely real, at least close.

Overall – it is NOT a quick read. But if you are in the mood to explore a lil’ bit of philosophy…and ready to delve into a good story-telling…then give it a try!


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