“Life of Pi” by Yann Martel

I didn’t see it coming.  The ending took me completely by surprise.  Which I admit seems silly in hindsight.  I can only postulate that I became so intimately bonded to Pi and Richard Parker that it never occurred to me to consider any alternate reality.  Simply, I wanted it to be true.

Yann Martel’s imaginative and unforgettable Life of Pi (12 and up) is a magical reading experience, an endless blue expanse of storytelling about adventure, survival, and faith.

The precocious son of a zookeeper, 16-year-old Pi Patel is raised in Pondicherry, India, where he tries on various faiths for size, attracting “religions the way a dog attracts fleas.” Planning a move to Canada, his father packs up the family and their menagerie and they hitch a ride on an enormous freighter.

Peter Kasim

After a harrowing shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean, trapped on a 26-foot lifeboat with a wounded zebra, a spotted hyena, a seasick orangutan, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker , “His head was the size and color of the lifebuoy, with teeth.”

It sounds like a colorful setup, but these wild beasts don’t burst into song as if co-starring in an anthropomorphized Disney feature. After much gore and infighting, Pi and Richard Parker remain the boat’s sole passengers, drifting for 227 days through shark-infested waters while fighting hunger, the elements, and an overactive imagination.

In rich, hallucinatory passages, Pi recounts the harrowing journey as the days blur together, elegantly cataloging the endless passage of time and his struggles to survive: “It is pointless to say that this or that night was the worst of my life. I have so many bad nights to choose from that I’ve made none the champion.”

At one point in his journey, Pi recounts, “My greatest wish–other than salvation–was to have a book. A long book with a never-ending story. One that I could read again and again, with new eyes and fresh understanding each time.” It’s safe to say that this heartbreaking fable Life of Pi is such a book.  (amazon review)

This gorgeous tale is on my top-ten list.  A word of warning — this beautiful but brutal tale is not for the overly sensitive teen.  Or adult, I guess.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. jrc362
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 18:40:38

    thank you Book Mama! Loved this book too. I remember sort of trudging through the first 80 pages, then being glued to it. Great review. Nice to think of that book again…

    Reply

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