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Life of Pi



wtfbookreview isn't just for stupid books. It's also a place to showcase books we stumble upon that are actually worth reading without breaking out the ballpoints. Life of Pi by Yann Martel is one of them.

I kept hearing about LoP and it was vaguely on my mental list of Books to Read, but I guess I never really paid attention. I didn't really know what the plot was, only that it was a good story, etc.

I actually went into the bookstore to get The Strain which is essentially about a zombie-vampire virus and has so little to do with LoP that it's kind of funny I came out with the latter. What most arrested me is a line in the Author's Note at the beginning.

Then the elderly man said, "I have a story that will make you believe in God."

Just like that, I was caught and I ended up buying it.

Don't mistake me, I'm not a religious person. But other people's religious beliefs fascinate me. And if they can do it in a non-preachy story, all the better.

So I picked up Life of Pi, took it home, and within a week began reading.

What struck me first was the language. I'm a sucker for descriptives—maybe that's why I liked Anne Rice before she went off the deep end—and Martel delivers. India is such a rich and detail laden place that it's hard for any author to mess it up, but Martel made me feel it. He made me smell it. And not in the hyper realistic way of crushing throngs of people in the dusty streets but in the cool, embroidered way of Pi living his life as a child.

The religious aspect of the book is secondary, really. Pi is a practicing Hindu, Christian, and Muslim, which is all kinds of contradictory and which works perfectly within the confines of the story. He comes from a faintly religious family that does not understand his fervor but also does not get in his way. They indulge him and Pi makes his own way through the world of God and the gods.

The basic plot is this: Pi and his family own a zoo and they decide they will migrate to Canada. They begin an ocean crossing with most of the animals and, along the way, the ship sinks. Pi finds himself drifting in the middle of the Pacific with a wounded zebra, a hungry hyena, a worried orangutan, and a seasick tiger. Eventually, there is only Pi and the tiger and their fight to survive in all that water.

It's not a story so much about faith in God as in faith, period. Having faith in something. Believing in something.

I won't say it's uplifting. To starve under such harsh conditions is a terrible thing and Martel doesn't shy away from describing some of the less pleasant aspects of their adventure. The story takes a sharp left turn toward the end that unbalanced me and—deliberately—kind of horrified me.

And then there's the ending. It's a split, one of those endings where you get to decide what you're going to believe with nobody forcing anything on you. It hurt my heart and it upset me. I finished the book, put it down, and had to sleep on it before I decided that, yes, I like this book. I love this story. I love these characters. And you should totally read it for these reasons.

If you don't want to buy it or get it out of your library, I'm fine with lending it. I've already got some takers, so tell me if you want your name on the list.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
chennpug
Jul. 30th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC)
I'm game! Buying non-essentials are kind of verboten for now, so this sounds good to me.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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