After the jump, my review.
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.