I usually do my review within a day or two of finishing a book, but I must admit this book was so emotionally draining I had to set it aside and try to stop thinking about it. No luck in erasing the visions from my mind…the thoughts stayed with me…lingered persistently…..plagued me. So I’ll do my review now. Put it to rest.
This is the story of Pi Patel’s miraculous survival 227 days on the open sea on a lifeboat. The introduction tells you it has a happy ending and it will make you believe in God. I’m not so sure about either one of those things. I’m not even sure you should read the book. But Pi does live to tell the story.
Told in 3 parts, Part 1 is life before the shipwreck. Piscine Molitor Patel – nicknamed Pi, son of a zoo keeper, a carefree teenager, happy, curious, intelligent, and spiritual. In fact Pi seriously practices three religions: Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. He doesn’t think the provincial dogma much matters. There is but one God. And if your destination is to reach him, what difference does the method make. Why not just pray to him in a variety of ways.
Part 2 – the emotional trauma begins. Pi’s father has closed the zoo in India and sold the exotic animals. The family is on the way to Canada to start a new life, and many of the animals are on board the Japanese cargo ship as well, going to zoos in Canada and the United States. There is a storm, an explosion, and the ship sinks. Chaos, hysterics, panic, confusion, and Pi ends up on a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a tiger named Richard Parker. This is Pi’s journey. 277 days at sea. He survives but it is a dark, uncensored, gruesome, nauseating journey.
Part 3 – Pi’s journey ends. He is weak, starving, and lethargic, but has an unbroken spirit. He is trying to explain to the Japanese insurance investigators exactly what happened. But who would believe such a story. They think Pi is either crazy, delirious, or making a joke. They keep insisting, “What really happened?” It is just too miraculous to believe. But it did happen, just as Pi says….or did it? So Pi gives the investigators a second story; a story of “dry yeastless factuality”…..the phrase Pi uses to describe the kind of story an agnostic would like…the kind of story they are asking for, and then tells them to choose. After all, it’s the same theory Pi used for religion. What difference does the story make. The end result is that he survived, and “the story with animals is better.” In Pi’s words, “And so it goes with God.”
Yann Martel is a wonderful storyteller, and “Life of Pi” won Martel the 2004 Booker Prize. There are moments of beauty and moments of humor. But read at your own risk. What disturbs me is the cannibalism. This is the second publication Martel wrote with cannibalism content…a fetish….or what! It astounds me that many other people gave this book rave reviews and talk about how much they “loved” the story. I just don’t get it. Are people so desensitized that the vivid descriptions of human brutality do not even faze them? Regardless if it is Pi’s made up story, a hallucination, or the truth, it was just too vulgar for me.
Rated 1 Star. I use a rating scale of 1 to 5. Books rated 1, I seldom finish; books rated 2, I usually finish but would never recommend to anyone. 5 is the highest rating.