Life of Pi Book Review
Okay, okay, so a 15-year-old Indian boy didn’t actually survive on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific for 227 days with a full-grown tiger but Yann Martel certainly makes it feel that way. Journey. Expedition. Adventure. None of these words quite capture the magic felt while cruising the Pacific’s current with Pi Patel, a zoo-keeper’s son who practices not one, not two, but three religions.
Pi Patel’s father decides to sell off the the remains of his zoo and move his family to Canada. As the Patel’s are crossing the Pacific with dozens of animals being sold to America zoos, their ship unexplainably sinks. Pi safetly gets to a lifeboat, only to find he shares it with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger. Every one of the next 227 days will threaten Pi’s life.
Although the book is often referred to as “fantasy adventure” or “magic realism”, Life of Pi fights those bindings of genre. This is a story of love, faith, companionship, humanity, and nature. Its a story about believing what you cannot see, believing exactly that which is hard to believe. Readers firmly planted in reality may have a hard time enjoying this novel. But to those who enjoy opening their mind to fiction will cherish it, as I certainly do.
***Check out my previous post for some great Life of Pi Quotes!
Life of Pi was included on Arts.Mic’s list of 11 Twenty-First Century Books Our Kids Will Be Taught in School.
Martel structures the novel to encourage the story’s reality. It begins by the author, Martel, having a chance encounter with an old man who tells him about a story that will “make him believe in God.” After the old man tells the narrator about Pi’s story, he seeks him out and “interviews” Pi as an adult in order to write his story.
The middle and majority of the book is written in Pi’s first person perspective as he struggles to survive with a tiger on a lifeboat in the vast Pacific.
SPOILER AHEAD: The end of the novel also ends with an interview; Pi being interviewed by two Japanese men investigating the sinking of the ship. This creates the full circle plot as well as
I don’t like to talk about theme in my book reviews because I think theme too often shrinks the imagination of the reader. To put a story in a neat, themed box (Example: The Harry Potter series is about how love conquers evil.) is too simple. Every novel has layers of meaning and every reader should be able to interpret it how they see fit.
So, without cramming Life of Pi‘s theme into a single word or phrase, it is about… Humanity. Peace. Storytelling. Faith. And how we interprets these things. What we choose to believe and how we push away the improbable as impossible. Every reader should have fun deciphering these themes for themselves. You may not discover the same things I did in this book, but I doubt you will come away empty handed.
The author of Life of Pi, Yann Martel, said the following was part of his inspiration for the story:
“The idea that life is an interpretation, that between us and reality lies our imagination, which shapes our vision of reality…” – Yann Martel in a Q&A on ABCnews.com
Life of Pi will likely make my list of favorite books read in 2015. The inspiration and humanity this novel exposes feels as real to me as the keyboard I’m typing on.