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Life of Pi Mass Market Paperback – May 3, 2004
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Yann Martel's imaginative and unforgettable Life of Pi is 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."
An award winner in Canada (and winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize), Life of Pi, Yann Martel's second novel, should prove to be a breakout book in the U.S. At one point in his journey, Pi recounts, "My greatest wish--other than salvation--was to have a book. A long book with a never-ending story. One that I could read again and again, with new eyes and fresh understanding each time." It's safe to say that the fabulous, fablelike Life of Pi is such a book. --Brad Thomas Parsons
From Publishers Weekly
A fabulous romp through an imagination by turns ecstatic, cunning, despairing and resilient, this novel is an impressive achievement "a story that will make you believe in God," as one character says. The peripatetic Pi (ne the much-taunted Piscine) Patel spends a beguiling boyhood in Pondicherry, India, as the son of a zookeeper. Growing up beside the wild beasts, Pi gathers an encyclopedic knowledge of the animal world. His curious mind also makes the leap from his native Hinduism to Christianity and Islam, all three of which he practices with joyous abandon. In his 16th year, Pi sets sail with his family and some of their menagerie to start a new life in Canada. Halfway to Midway Island, the ship sinks into the Pacific, leaving Pi stranded on a life raft with a hyena, an orangutan, an injured zebra and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. After the beast dispatches the others, Pi is left to survive for 227 days with his large feline companion on the 26-foot-long raft, using all his knowledge, wits and faith to keep himself alive. The scenes flow together effortlessly, and the sharp observations of the young narrator keep the tale brisk and engaging. Martel's potentially unbelievable plot line soon demolishes the reader's defenses, cleverly set up by events of young Pi's life that almost naturally lead to his biggest ordeal. This richly patterned work, Martel's second novel, won Canada's 2001 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. In it, Martel displays the clever voice and tremendous storytelling skills of an emerging master.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
Of course, my reluctance proved to be entirely unfounded. Life of Pi is absolutely, unquestionably, one of the best books I've ever read. I'm tempted to begin it again immediately, it was that good. :) There are layers of richness here that doubtless will continue to unfold with repeated readings. It offers adventure, tragedy, trivia, spirituality, and humor, all in a seamless narrative. I was only sorry for the story to end!
As an added note, my version of Life of Pi is the Kindle Whispersync edition, and I listened to parts of it in audiobook format. The narrator is hands down one of the best I've ever come across, and added so much to my experience that when I switched back to the Kindle format, I kept hearing his voice in my head. To Jeff Woodman, I offer a standing ovation. :)
Martel begins his story by introducing us to young Piscine Molitor Patel and his life with his family growing up. Piscine invented his own nickname, Pi, when cruel kids at school called him "Pissing Patel." Pi's father is a successful zoo owner and this provides him with a unique relationship to exotic animals. He learns about the animals and their mannerisms, which at the time he didn't know how beneficial this would be. His father's zoo is where he meets his lifeboat companion, Richard Parker, a nearly 500 pound Bengal tiger. Pi had a little bit of religious confusion growing up; he enjoyed several different belief systems and practiced all of them. It is my belief that these religions helped in his survival. Pi's father eventually sells the zoo and moves his family to Canada, but this would come at a huge cost. During the trip aboard a Japanese cargo ship they encounter a storm at sea. The boat capsizes and Pi finds himself in the middle of the ocean with some unique company. Aboard the lifeboat with Pi was an Orangutan named Orange Juice, a wounded zebra, a hyena and of course Richard Parker.
Martel's exposition sets up the main part of the story wonderfully with several details about the animals and Pi's life. These details lay a solid foundation and provide the reader with a personal relationship to Pi, making his struggles meaningful. Surviving for 227 days at sea is seemingly impossible and with animals being animals (doing what it takes to survive) it created a dangerous and trying journey for Pi. After several days at sea, Pi is left alone with one animal, Richard Parker, and it is the one animal Pi feared the most. The part of story with Richard Parker is intriguing, making the book very hard to put down. Pi develops a plan to tame Richard Parker and after the tiger is somewhat tamed, they began to share a mutual respect for each other. Each individual understood that they needed one another to survive and both are willing to accept that. Pi develops efficient ways to collect water and food for him and Richard Parker and their journey together is nothing short of exciting all the way through.
Shortly after land was found in Mexico, Pi is interviewed by two men from the company that owned the Japanese cargo ship. Pi told them of his tragic, but exciting story and they refused to believe it. Eventually Pi gives in and tells them a different story, one without the amazing tales of survival and near death experiences. It is up to the reader now to believe which story is the truth.
This book won the Man-Booker Prize in 2002 and was Yann Martel's fourth book.
I make a connection with two movies. 12 Angry Men, and Lifeboat by Alfred Hitchcock. Both are about critical survival issues played out in a small, sometimes claustrophobic setting. Both highlight the way essential decisions are made and how we use natural talents and whatever comes to hand to meet needs. All three end with an unexpected trust.
I liked this small story. I have just bought the book because it will be read more than once.