Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Daughter Kerry suggested Life of Pi as a great read. Wow! This is not your usual summertime potboiler of love, lust, corporate greed and what ever else is on the NY Times best seller list. No! This book takes the story of one shipwrecked boy, adds one Bengal tiger and various other exotic animals, stirs well enough to make you question the meaning of life, then punches you in the gut with a twist of an ending.

Pi is an Indian boy growing up by his family's zoo. An ideal life? Not exactly. One only has to read the funny account of how Pi got his name and his nickname to realize that children the world over have the same problems. Pi decides to embrace not only his Hindu gods, but the Christian, Jewish and Muslim gods too. Impossible you say. Not for Pi. All are comforting to him. Whose to say he's not right? If God is so big, couldn't he take on many incarnations? Perhaps he is sitting in his heaven right now, watching humans bicker over who is right, shaking his head and saying, "You guys just don't get it."

Life is pretty good for Pi until his Dad decides to move the family and the zoo to Canada via an old Japanese freighter. The voyage begins, but a shipwreck occurs and soon Pi, the tiger, a hyena, an orangutang and a zebra are the sole occupants of a life boat. Who survives? Who outwits who? In this exciting story, the reader feels as if he is right there with Pi, figuring out how to get safe water, catching and eating raw fish, enduring the storms, the hot sun and the days that go on and on.

I won't ruin the ending. Suffice it to say I was ready to throw the book across the room. What in the world does it all mean? Is it the truth or a fairy tale? Is it a hallucination or a vision given Pi by God to enable him to survive? I contemplated a character's assertion that "If we can function with either of two stories, why not choose a better story?" But what, than, of the truth? Can there be different truths for different individuals? Or is the truth sometimes so searing that it is unbearable for mere humans to withstand? Is it OK, then, to fall upon the story as a kind of psychological salve to regain order, sense and control of our world? Read the story and decide for yourself......


At 9:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know we talked about it before Mom, but I think the truth still exists even within the second story. It is a parable to what actually happened. In this story Pi is in control of his life despite the overwhelming odds. In the other story he is helpless and virtually alone.



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