Life of Pi

A hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra. A 450-pound Bengal tiger. A sixteen-year-old Indian boy. One lifeboat. A fantastic tale of epic proportions, Life of Pi combines all these and more. Pi Patel is a god-loving boy and a zookeeper’s son. When his family decides to migrate to Canada, they board a Japanese cargo ship, carrying almost their entire zoo with them. The ship sinks, and Pi finds himself on a lifeboat with four dangerous animals. With no hope of rescue, he must use all of his wits to assert his superiority and survive the Pacific—before it’s too late.

This book is told in three parts. In the first section, Pi narrates his life before the shipwreck. He describes a colorful childhood with an endearing family, interspersed with stories about religion and zoo animals—a slow but interesting beginning. The second part sees him transitioning from a brave boy to a worthy protagonist, a young man whose instinctive cunning and intelligent optimism tides him through the worst possible scenarios. Innumerable challenges face a stranded boy on a boat, and through all these we suffer with him, rejoice with him even for the smallest of victories. At this point he seems just about the most likable sixteen-year-old in literature. By the third section, Pi transforms into a completely different person. Immeasurably wiser and utterly changed by his 227-day journey, he narrates another story, one even more terrifying than the last.

I have nothing but good things to say about this book. Thoroughly amusing, incessantly inventive, and woefully poignant, it is a novel worth my highest recommendations. Actually, I have read chunks of it before, when Sarah accidentally left her copy in my house, and I already knew the twist before I began this second reading, but even so I still fully enjoyed it. The amount of instructive material it offers makes it seem almost like a survival guide, but it never ceases to fascinate. Its attention to detail may induce a little headache for those unfamiliar with nautical lingo (like me), but the momentary struggle is definitely worth it (besides, there’s always the illustrated version). Brimming with well-researched data and descriptions worthy of visualization, Life of Pi offers a unique, fantastic reading experience. I savored every bit of it, and though I most likely won’t peruse it again, it’s earned a permanent place on my bookshelf.

All things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways.

Everything was screaming: the sea, the wind, my heart.

It is simple and brutal: a person can get used to anything, even to killing.

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