Every year some publisher or another foists an uplifting allegory on the ever-ravenous public. Paul Coelho is the emperor of the genre (for now). Life of Pi is an addition to the canon, and has done quite well with folks seeking a sugar-coated sort of uplift. I found the book to be moderately entertaining, moderately clever, not particularly insightful, and way too long. When the characters hit the Doldrums, the book does as well and shifts from moderate to boring, and never recovers. I'd be thrilled if the reading public gave Life of Pi a rest, but I fear it's going to find an eternal niche in the becalmed waters of the New Age.
In some ways, a challenging read due to length and some of the specifics of the journey. Overall, however, an amazing journey to take. At turns practical and philosophical, it's a book that will hold you to the end.
Yann Martel's imaginative and unforgettableLife of Piis 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."