Friday, October 17, 2008

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Also reviewed by Kari

Summary: Pi Patel is an unusual boy. He is the son of a zookeeper, has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior, a fervent love of stories, and practices not only his native Hinduism, but also Christianity and Islam. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes.

The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, hisonly companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Robert Parker for 227 days lost at sea. When they finally reach land in Mexico, Robert Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional, but is it more true?

My review: Some books for me are intensely personal and you, lucky reader, get to be a sounding board for all of that. I know, you are weeping at your good-fortune. Before I started this book, I wasn't familiar with its premise. I assumed it was a story about a boy who was stranded in a boat with a tiger (something I, undoubtedly, pulled from the cover of the book), but happily I got far more than I that. I guess I expected it to be monotonous and predictable. I mean, how many things could really happen, right? He either gets eaten, or he doesn't. Wrong. Life of Pi was fabulous all the way through. I never knew what was coming and when I thought I might have an idea the storyline always twisted in a completely different way than expected.

"Life of Pi" begins with a young boy who is busy exploring life, religion, and all things zoological in India before his family sets off in a Japanese freighter for a new start in Canada. His early life was very much an exploration of what we believe--what is the truth? about life? about family? about God? about ourselves? I really wasn't expecting this book to create, within me, a religious dialogue, but it definitely got me thinking about what I believe, specifically about God, and why I believe it.

Here are a few of my truths that I gathered from this book (I realize I'm a little off topic here. Deal.)

- We live in a world of people that long to be defined... that are searching frantically to know and understand their purpose on this earth. They want to be able to put everything that happens in its proper place. Having a purpose to life..a clear defines a person, their space and their existance and when it is threatened they can react unpredictably.

-One of my favorite quotes from LOP was in reference to agnosticism and Christianity. "If Christ spent and anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the cross, 'My God, my God why have you forsaken me?' then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation."

- Here's another... "it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside...for evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena, but the small clearing of each heart."

- And finally the last... "I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent." It says somewhere in the scriptures that "fear is the absence of faith." I really feal that a lack of faith is our only true opponent in life...this can be faith in God...or just faith in eachother...or in oneself.

Okay. Back to business. Yann Martel is a master of the perfect sentence--the one that you read and then reread because the author has put his thoughts in such a creative and unique way that you just have to stop, breathe, and honor it. Example: YM could have said "there are lots of weird animals in Tokyo." Instead we get "If you took the city of Tokyo and turned it upside down and shook it, you'd be amazed at the animals that would fall out" I love it when authors use completely different imagery, rather than the standard cliche, to get their point across. These sentences pepper this book and make me search for and relish the moments when I encounter them.

As the story progresses, to Pi's life within the confines of a small life boat the story only gets more interesting. He is forced to live life, on edge, every moment and you become as consumed as he is in his own survival as he descends into a type of animal existence in order to stay alive. How far does he go? That is up to you to decide.This book was a wonderful read, but it was made, really MADE by its ending. I won't give it away...but it will literally suck the air out of whatever room you happen to be sitting in. Breathe.

My rating: Four and half stars (deducting half a point because it made me nauseous at certain points...I'm merely being immature and retalitory). For the sensitive reader: This is an adult novel. I would not recommend it for young adults because of its dark tone, the Richard Parker violence and general "ew" factor.

If I could sum this book up in one phrase it would be: Disturbingly devourable.


Sweet Em said...

Your review of the first half of the book is precisely why I love the book. Yes, the second half is great and will inform my survival skills if I am ever stranded on a life raft, with our without (preferably without) a tiger. However I really love the beginning and its comparison of the three major religions that intersect in India. This was the first book where I found myself actively cataloging my opinion as I read and deciding if my internal religion agreed or disagreed with the character (the other book that is really good for a similar internal discussion is "Eat, Pray, Love").

I love how it added to my understanding of my own personal beliefs and opened my mind to the possible perceptions of others.

MindySue said...

I completely agree. It was a definitely about the conversation it created within you. You are right about EAT PRAY LOVE...I definitely read that book and it was so amazing to be able to peek inside the different beliefs and see how in a lot of ways the intersected (and in other ways diverged) from our own. Sometimes I found myself nodding my head...and others well, maybe there was a little eye-rolling.


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