The Life of Pi (Maryland Book Club Selection for January)

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From Amazon: Yann Martel’s imaginative and unforgettable Life of Pi is a magical reading experience, an endless blue expanse of storytelling about adventure, survival, and ultimately, faith. The precocious son of a zookeeper, 16-year-old Pi Patel is raised in Pondicherry, India, where he tries on various faiths for size, attracting “religions the way a dog attracts fleas.” Planning a move to Canada, his father packs up the family and their menagerie and they hitch a ride on an enormous freighter. After a harrowing shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean, trapped on a 26-foot lifeboat with a wounded zebra, a spotted hyena, a seasick orangutan, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker (“His head was the size and color of the lifebuoy, with teeth”). It sounds like a colorful setup, but these wild beasts don’t burst into song as if co-starring in an anthropomorphized Disney feature. After much gore and infighting, Pi and Richard Parker remain the boat’s sole passengers, drifting for 227 days through shark-infested waters while fighting hunger, the elements, and an overactive imagination. In rich, hallucinatory passages, Pi recounts the harrowing journey as the days blur together, elegantly cataloging the endless passage of time and his struggles to survive: “It is pointless to say that this or that night was the worst of my life. I have so many bad nights to choose from that I’ve made none the champion.”

My thoughts: Once I was done, this book was fascinating to me. I had to go back and read the section where the Orangutan came aboard. I had to reread the section where the Orangutan dies. I had to reread the section where he comes upon another man stranded and starving like he is. And the short, short chapter where he acknowledges his mother’s birthday with a song — heartbreaking.

It is the ending that makes this book. If the tape had not been found, if the story had not been told, if it was a story about a boy and a tiger, this would be just another implausible adventure story.

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2 thoughts on “The Life of Pi (Maryland Book Club Selection for January)

    Tina said:
    February 15, 2010 at 12:24 am

    Ah come on!!!! Once again, we disagree 🙂 I think it is totally plausible!!!

    LeeAnn Volk said:
    February 16, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    It is one of those books that sticks in your brain. When all is quiet and you remember a portions of the book and have another insight.

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