Life of Pi

                    Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Rating: ★★★★

Favorite Line: “Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud…”

Review:

While reading this book I realized I had made a terrible, unforgivable mistake: I watched the movie first. 

This book swept though the U.S. a few years ago with such force that it seemed like everyone was reading it, and then soon everyone was watching the movie, and the movie really was good. 

The book is also really great, however the impact of the descision the characters, and the reader, have to make at the end is terribly lost when you already know the ending. 

Furthermore, since I already knew what would happen in the middle, I found the beginning quite boring because I just wanted to get to the part about the tiger. 

The beginning is actually very interesting because it follows this young boy who is despritely trying to find God in every way possible. In this search he finds God in the Christian faith, the Muslim faith, and the Hindu faith. In these three contradictory religions, he found God present in such a real way, that he considered himself a member of all three religions. 

This idea is nice, however, it is very unrealistic because there are strong contradictions in each religion that would not allow you to fully follow each religion in its fullness. Now, putting the contradictions aside, this novel really goes deep into the mind of a young Indian man, searching for Truth, and that search is beautiful. I really wish I would have spent more time really analyzing the process he goes through, because it is very revealing about what happens to your mind and heart when you are searching for a higher meaning. I didn’t, however, spend time on this section, because like I said earlier, I wanted to get to the tiger part, because tigers are awesome. 

This book actually reminded me a lot of The Martian by Andy Weir, (with which I also violated the rules and watched the movie first) because it follows the same basic idea: drop someone in an intense life or death situation with a very small chance of survival, and with little or no help from the outside world, and see what happens.

Also, similar to The Martian, the author is very prescise about how the protagonist survives. Instead of saying “Pi took the rope and tied it to the lifejacket” he would say “Pi took the 14 foot-long rope, which was 2 inches in diameter and slightly worn from the beating of the sun and water against it, and he tied it to the  yellow lifejacket, which was 32 inches wide and 37 inches long.”  This isn’t an actual quote, but you get the idea, he makes sure you know exactly what is happening, down to the exact inch. This happens in The Martian, except there we are learning about botany, psychics, and survival on Mars, here we are learning about zoology, theology, and the survival in a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger. It’s hard to say in which circumstance survival is more probable. 

The story is thrilling and addicting. Every chapter you think, “ok, NOW, he’s going to die,” but he somehow hangs on–it’s really captivating! Not only is it captivating throughout, but the ending is one of the best I’ve read. If you like books that leave you thinking for days, then this is one for you! 

The reason this is a 4 star book and a not 5 star book for me is because Pi, the main character, did not captivate me. For a protagonist to work for me, I really need to feel that connection with them, and it just didn’t happen with Pi. He was insightful and curious, but he just wasn’t one I caught on to, and I had a hard time feeling empathetic toward him, which is unfortunate because his situation was one that normally would draw lots of empathy. 

This book brings up questions of humanity, religion, philosophy, and morality in a beautiful, yet painful, way, and it shows how far we can go, in strength and mind, if we our pushed to our utmost limits. 

                                    ****

Yann Martel won the Man-Booker Prize for Life of Pi in 2002. This novel spent over a year on The New York Times bestseller list, and was a #1 international bestseller. 

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3 thoughts on “Life of Pi

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