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Life of Pi

A book by Yann Martel

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The Lives of Pi

  • Feb 13, 2009
Rating:
+5
I must be almost the last person in North America to read Yann Martel's unforgettable tale, "Life of Pi." Consider that there are now over 1900 reviews of the book on Amazon despite the fact that only a tiny percentage of a book's readers will ever take the time to do that, or that 16,095 members of Library Thing own it, making "Life of Pi" the 21st most popular book there. Well, I can finally tell everyone that it was worth the wait.

Yann Martel has written an inspiring story about the defining event in one man's life, an event that 16-year-old Pi Patel miraculously survives when so many others around him do not, something that shapes the rest of his life. It does not hurt, of course, that the story involves a shipwreck, a 450-pound Bengal tiger, one small lifeboat drifting the vast Pacific Ocean, cannibalism, and a mysterious island in the middle of nowhere.

Until his mid-teens, Pi Patel is raised in remote Pondicherry, India, where he and his brother are lucky enough to live on the grounds of the zoo managed by his father. Pi's father, though, becomes disillusioned with the Indian government of the mid-seventies and decides to move the family to Canada. The Patel family leaves India on the same freighter carrying a large number of zoo animals destined for new homes of their own in North American zoos. Plans for man and animal alike, however, change one day just before dawn when Pi realizes that the ship is rapidly sinking.

Suddenly the ship is gone and Pi finds himself sharing a 26-foot lifeboat with a severely injured zebra, a female orangutan elder, a manic hyena and, most importantly, a tiger so large that he alone fills half the boat's limited space. Animals do what animals do, especially when faced with starvation, and only Pi and the tiger he calls Richard Parker are still around when the boat reaches land 227 days later.

Yann Martel mixes realism and magic to just the right degree, allowing his readers to suspend their disbelief to the degree that everything that happens seems possible - and then he throws readers the kind of curve ball that will leave them standing at the plate with bats on shoulders, an alternate version of his entire story. Each reader will have to choose for himself the version he believes to have happened, a choice that will tell much about the reader himself. I cannot imagine a more perfect choice for book club discussion than "Life of Pi."

If you are one of the few yet to read "Life of Pi," you have quite an experience ahead of you.

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More Life of Pi reviews
Quick Tip by . October 01, 2010
I liked it. I never worked out what I thought had happened, but I still liked it. One of the few "inconclusive" novels that still has me hooked.
Quick Tip by . July 15, 2010
I tried three times and was never able to make it through this. I've heard the end is good and the beginning was exciting, but the middle is a long stretch.
Quick Tip by . July 11, 2010
Stick with it...the ending is a zinger! It completely changes you're perspective on the whole story.
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
love this book, entertaining with an interesting ending.
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
great story!!
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
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.
Quick Tip by . June 28, 2010
It starts out slow but the writing is charming and the story is interesting.
Quick Tip by . June 24, 2010
A great adventure!
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
loved it
Quick Tip by . June 17, 2010
loved this book!
About the reviewer
Sam Sattler ()
Ranked #256
Oil company professional of almost 40 years experience who has worked in oil-producing countries around the world. I love books, baseball and bluegrass music and hope to dedicate myself to those hobbies … more
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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."

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Details

ISBN-10: 0156027321
ISBN-13: 978-0156027328
Author: Yann Martel
Genre: Literature & Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Mariner Books
Polls with this book
1984 (British first edition)

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