Wednesday, October 28, 2009

13. "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel

Martel, Yann. Life of Pi. Orlando: Harcourt Inc, 2001.
319 pages.
Reviewed by J. d’Artagnan Love

“This book was born as I was hungry,” writes Yann Martel of his novel, Life of Pi. Hunger is only one of the many sensations the protagonist experiences after he is shipwrecked in the Pacific. Life of Pi won the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2002. Film director Ang Lee is also reported to be interested in directing a film adaptation due for release sometime in the year 2011. (This is according to his comments at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival).

In Life of Pi, Piscine Molitar Patel, known to world as Pi Patel, spends his childhood in Pondicherry, India. He grows up in a public zoo surrounded by exotic animals thanks to his father’s work as a zookeeper.

Pi, as a child, is passionate about God and religion. He is a Hindu, a Muslim, and a Christian all in one package. He finds God in everything—in the animals he tends to in the zoo, in the wind, in each of his places of worship, in his relationships. In the first part of the novel, he is truly saturated in a desire to know God and the nature of universe.

In Part Two of Life of Pi, Pi and his family have been hit with hard economic times. They decide to move to Canada where they plan to start a new life. The ship intended to take them to their new life in Canada unexpectedly sinks in the Pacific Ocean. Pi is stranded on a lifeboat with an orangutan, a Bengal tiger, an injured zebra, and an assortment of “pests”—rats, flies, etc.

Pi tells an incredible story of survival and faith. He managers to keep himself and Richard Parker (the tiger), alive through many different resourceful means from catching fish and turtles, to training the tiger like a circus performer, and finally, to discovering a mysterious floating island. He survives at sea for 227 days.

This text takes the reader to the brink of survival. The middle section becomes long and is filled with intricate details. It feels like the middle section will never come to an end, giving readers a taste of the desperation Pi, himself, might have felt during his ordeal.

Written to appear as nonfiction, the story becomes addicting. The characters are vivid, lovable, and real. Readers travel with Pi, cry with him, are afraid with him, become desperate with him.

The way the novel ends tests readers' faith on many levels. The ending’s twist makes readers question the difference between truth and fiction. Life of Pi will leave a lasting impression on all who are willing to join Pi on his journey.

3 darts out of 5

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