Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: Life of Pi

Life of Pi
From Life of Pi, by Yann Martel:

Open quote 
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."

After the jump, my review.

Grade: B+

Growing up in India, surrounded by family and the animals in a family-owned zoo, Pi's biggest concern is choosing what religion to follow -- Hinduism, Christianity, or Islam. To the consternation of everyone, he chooses all three. Immediately after accepting Jesus as his Savior, he races to the Hindu temple to thank Lord Krishna for putting Jesus Christ in his way.

For Pi, everything is good. Even the family's decision to emigrate to Canada, taking many of their zoo animals with them on a cargo ship, is just another big adventure for the teen-aged Pi. That is, until the ship sinks and Pi finds himself in a lifeboat all alone, except for a Bengal tiger. Pi's optimism is tested. Pi just might be the Candide for our time. Or Robinson Crusoe. Or Castaway Tom Hanks. Or Siegfried and Roy. Or uniquely Pi.

Life of Pi is not a new novel, but it's one I had never heard of until recently. Better late than never. It's original. It's a captivating story. Pi himself is an unforgettable character. What you can learn from him about animals -- hyenas, orangutans, zebras, tigers -- rivals what you might learn from a nature documentary, and sheds light on the human animal as well. It makes a great summer read to take on vacation with you -- light but filling. Just maybe don't read it on a cruise.

P.S. Life of Pi is finally being adapted into a motion picture with a release date of late 2012. I have low expectations. Although there's plenty of action suitable for cinema, it's Pi's narration, his thoughts and feelings and attitude that makes for good reading. It's hard to preserve that when adapting a good book into a movie.


H William Gordon said...

What a fabulous book! My favorite quote from the book is, "I’ll be honest about it. It is not atheists who get stuck in my crawl, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To chose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation." (Chapter 7)

Mark Steger said...

Some moviegoers are complaining about feeling cheated by the movie's "double ending." I haven't seen the movie (yet), but I don't remember feeling cheated by the book's ending. Pi is a storyteller. He told his story, then he told the story his doctors wanted to hear. What's the truth? It's a story!