Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Life of Pi

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
$11.20 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 0156027321
Like something out of a dream, this story tells the life of Piscine Molitor Patel, a young man from India whose nickname is the famous irrational number.
It begins during his childhood. His father works at the Pondicharry Zoo, and Pi and his brother seem to almost live there full-time. Animals, their behavior, and captivity provide rich metaphors throughout this mysterious tale.
Pi is curious about religion, and befriends a local Muslim imam and Catholic priest, along with his local Hindu leaders. When the boy tries to become a member of all three religions at once, an interesting debate ensues between the three spiritual captains and Pi's parents.
For various reasons, Pi's family is forced to leave their homeland for Canada. Even more peculiar, they take all of the zoo's animals with them on a giant steamer ship across the Pacific, for transport to various zoos in North America. When the ship sinks mid-way across, our hero finds himself trapped and adrift in a lifeboat with a large, hungry tiger.
It starts off rationally enough, but gradually the reader realizes that what's being described couldn't possibly happen: it must be something out of a dream, but with more depth and detail: many of the characters come complete with fascinating back-stories.
Yann Martel has created an amazing fantasy world I just loved getting lost in. The scenery grows more outrageous and exotic with each page, but then becomes more grounded in reality at times for stability. It's like taking a ride on the Orient Express.
The imagery in this book is often something out of a nightmare: the savage brutality of a predator feasting on its prey comes up on several occassions. Yet somehow, Martel manages to create an optimistic story complimentary to the brutal tiger, insufferable hyena, noble zebra, and the most dangerous animal of all: man.
All this and a cohesive plot that's engaging even as it drifts from reality.
If you enjoy getting lost in a good story that's engaging from the first page, check this one out. Full of surprises and moments of quiet engagement, the Life of Pi is a real gem!

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