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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
"Life of Pi could renew your faith in the ability of novelists to invest even the most outrageous scenario with plausible life."— The New York Times Book Review
"A story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction."— Los Angeles Times Book Review
"A gripping adventure story . . . Laced with wit, spiced with terror, it's a book by an extraordinary talent."— St. Paul Pioneer-Press
"A terrific book . . . Fresh, original, smart, devious, and crammed with absorbing lore."— Margaret Atwood
"An impassioned defense of zoos, a death-defying trans-Pacific sea adventure a la Kon-Tiki, and a hilarious shaggy-dog story . . . : This audacious novel manages to be all of these." — The New Yorker
"Readers familiar with Margaret Atwood, Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje and Carol Shields should learn to make room on the map of contemporary Canadian fiction for the formidable Yann Martel." — Chicago Tribune
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Yann Martell manages to tell the same man vs. nature themed story in a completely new fashion, loaded with questions about life and death, beliefs, family and spirituality. Survival stories remind us not only that life is worth living but that we can cling to the desire to live as long as we can find a reason to keep fighting, what if the reason to stay alive is life itself? Pi shows us that sometimes it is when we lose everything that we might find ourselves.
I’m hesitant to define this tale as a religious one yet it is deeply spiritual. Pi has a great heart and his soul (his mind, if you rather) craves for knowledge, both physical which is made clear by his interest in zoology and metaphysical which leads him to approach religion. Aristotle said that “All men by nature desire to know” and Pi’s desire to know is nothing else that this natural desire common to all humankind.
I believe that what makes Pi different from other boys (and men) is the fact that he is able to realise that both the physical and metaphysical knowledge are rooted in a common true. The spiritual search of Pi is not the search of someone trying to find a messiah, nor of someone looking for a new lifestyle; it is a pursue of a higher truth. That’s the reason why he can be a pious Hindu. And Muslim. And Catholic. Because he understands that both three religions convey a true message. “I told her that in fact she was not so wrong; that Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims”.
Martell gives you a novel with a powerful insight of a very smart and pious boy who clings to life while coexisting with a tiger in the middle of the sea. The words are overwhelming by the deep meaning they convey and at the same time beautifully used to describe an imposing scenario.
This is a book totally worth reading, I totally enjoyed it from beginning to end, loved the characters, yes, it might be a little slow at first and the time spent in the sea to long, but it’s definitely worth it.
Life of Pi takes place in 1970's India where we get the story of Pi growing up in a zoo. The book continues with Pi ending in a shipwreck and having to share a lifeboat with a tiger.
The way Martel tells the story is very interesting. There's the parallel story of Martel himself going to visit an older Pi who tells the story that we are now reading. There's the occasional zoology lesson interspersed and an examination of faith. All this combined with the brutality of surviving in the Pacific Ocean. All of this is told through Pi, through Martel, through Pi which makes it quite a third hand telling.
The ending is however genius as it completely flips the story on its head and you might have a revelation from it.
Overall a great read, and be sure to catch the movie as well!
However, I wanted to add a warning. The second half of the book is very gruesome and can get a bit tedious with details, sometimes VERY GRUESOME and TEDIOUS with details! It is only the second book I have ever read that I prefer the movie to the book. It has the "heart" of the book without showing all the gore.
That said, I DO recommend the book. I sobbed, smiled and more. Just not for everyone. You'll definitely remember it awhile after reading.
Martel's writing of the sea, animal behavior and his apparent lust for life, meaning and irony are a feast to be savored. Richard Parker would have been impressed --- I left not a morsel.
If you want a rollicking summer read without compromising your spirit of seeking, this one's the pick of the litter.
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