Life of Pi by Yann Martel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I wasn't a fan of the film Cast Away. I like stories where the characters interact and Tom Hanks spent too much time alone in that film. So Life of Pie is a novel I might not have picked on my own. It's about a young Indian man who is the sole survivor of a shipwreck and ends up sharing a lifeboat with Richard Parker, a Bengal Tiger. It was a choice for my book club and I'm thankful for that. It is a fascinating read.
Of course, there is time spent on the basics of survival. Pi (the young man's full name is Piscine Molitor Patel) spends 277 days in the small boat, so he needs to set up rain catchers and floating stills to capture fresh water and he has to discover a way to catch fish and turtles for a food source. He has to provide for his own needs as well as those of his formidable companion. But he also spends time reflecting on his past life with his family- zoo keepers in India. The entire story is set up with Pi as an old man looking back on his life, so technically these reflections are within a larger reminiscence. What was important to me was that much of the book is about Pi's concept of the relationships of people with animals and with God. Yann Martel does not directly compare our role to God to the role of zoo animals to zoo keepers, but enough time is spent on those subjects to draw our own conclusions.
The book contains graphic violence at times because it draws an honest picture of nature's food chain, but one of its greatest strengths is the relationship between Pi and Richard Parker. Pi has to assert his dominance or he will be eaten. It is fascinating to follow the way he chooses to do that.
I loved two things about this book: its originality and Martel's simple, yet profound, concept of God. I won't reveal any of my conclusions in this review because to do so would spoil aspects of the book. But I will say it made me think.
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