Wednesday, April 3, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Life of Pi
What a great book.  These Canadian authors are continually surprising me.

This book is about Pi (Piscine Patel) and his adventure with living with a tiger on a boat and that he has a story that will make you believe in God.  Pretty broad hey?

For serious though.  It starts out with the introduction of Pi’s life in India and introduces us to how he got his name and how he perfected giving oneself their own nickname. Throughout his early years you can see that he is a smart kid; like in his thirst for knowledge in the 3 main religions (Hindu, Catholicsm and Islam). I thought it was great that both his parents accepted in a sense that he should be able to go around, learning about all the different aspects of religion and then choose what one he’d want to believe in.  The beginning of the book also shows how his family owned a zoo. It is from this experience that Pi understands animals. He understands that they are wild and not to anthromorphise them.  This is an important lesson that Pi faces everyday while stuck at sea.  With the continual downward spiral of India’s economy his  family,  in hopes of a better life want to relocated to Canada (Winnipeg of all places!) . It is the eventual sale of the zoo and the relocation of all the animals to American/Canadian zoos that leads them on a Japanese cargo ship, Tsimtsum destined across the Pacific.

The unthinkable happens and the ship sinks.  Pi finds himself on a life boat, along with a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra and Richard Parker.  Richard Parker is a male tiger.   Undoubtedly, all the animals are afraid, as they just about drowned, most likely in a drugged out state from being in the cargo hold and then are thrown into another very unusual situation..  Eventually nature takes it course and the hyena goes crazy (aka-he’s just a hungry little shit). This is when Richard Parker makes his debut.  I loved this part of the book. The orang part especially (shocker!).  Martel did a very good job describing the situation; he made you feel like you were there in the boat as well

Pi survives with Richard Parker for 227 days. He plays the alpha role with Richard Parker, training him like a circus animal, respecting territories, respecting the need that a full grown tiger needs to eat and drink a lot, and if Richard Parker wasn’t full enough a little Indian boy was there for picking.  He never forgets the lesson he learnt at the zoo, which I believed aided in his survival. I don’t think Pi fully trusted Richard Parker and there were many times he spent scared shitless on his raft.  He became a master of surviving, collecting water, catching and eating fish (or anything else that). A strict vegetarian turned into a scavenger. It’s hard to imagine what you would or would not do in order to survive, and until you actually get put into that position, especially at 16 years old. I don’t think you can truthfully answer it.  I mean I would like to say I would never eat tiger feces, but....  
“All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive.”

Throughout the time on the boat he never loses his faith in his religions, constantly calling out to all 3 big players.   There were times when you could tell he wanted to give up, but those were the times he also told himself to buck up and keep going.

I like how in the end Pi gives two stories to the Japanese officials. The one with the tiger and another less subdue, more believable story. As much as you want to believe in the tiger story, there is always the possibility that Pi did make it up, because hell, 200+ days at sea I’m sure you would come up with a shit ton of imaginative stories.   I guess it goes to show that there are always 2 sides of a story, and most likely more people will take the one that they can understand, believe.  So was it a story to make you believe in God? I don’t know. But something had to be going right for you if you can survive a 227 day journey with a tiger. 
“If you stumble about believability, what are you living for? Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?” 

5 stars. Go pick it up, or if anything go download the movie. They did it justice.   You won’t regret it.

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