I had some internal debates as to how to rate this book, but finally decided on a more positive one. After all, this book doesn’t teach religion, instead it teaches perspective, and I love books that make you think and choose for yourself rather than dictate you on what to think and believe in. Right at the beginning of the book, it is mentioned that the story “will make you believe in God.” Will it really, or will it not, will depend on how one will view the events as told, and again the choice is left to the reader.
If one has to take Life of Pi as pure fiction, a mere storytelling only, one will find the plot very fascinating. Pi, or Piscine “Pissing” Molitor, is an Indian boy born at Pondicherry. His father is a zookeeper and most of Pi’s life is spent observing the different characteristics of different zoo animals. Born a Hindu, Pi eventually discovered Islam and Christianity and decided to practice these three religions altogether, to the chagrin and amusement of the people around him. Afterwards, his family decides to migrate to Canada so they sold their zoo and embarked on a ship journey, but the ship sank. Pi is left on a lifeboat together with several animals, including a large Bengal tiger, and what happens for the next months (years?) may be beyond belief, or not, depending on how you view it.
One thing that I like about Life of Pi is the education about animals and animal behavior that I got. There were animals mentioned that I haven’t heard before, and some that I’ve heard but have never really known. For instance, I though that hyenas are birds but are more like canines, as I’ve learned. I have never heard of meerkats before and I got curious about them when I read this book. The techniques on how to train animals are also mentioned and which I found equally interesting.
The story is told through the narration of Pi himself, and I must say that Pi is a funny man. I love reading about his musings and his thoughts while on the sea, how he survived his hunger and thirst, the cold, the sun, and the sharks. I love reading about his realizations and reflections on life and survival, and his struggles to decide whether to live or die. I cannot imagine being at sea for days, or months, or years. The sea is fascinating for me, in fact I love swimming, but its entire vastness also intimidates and overwhelms me. How much more if one is left at sea all alone except for a Bengal tiger?
However, there is more to the book than Pi and Richard Parker, the tiger, drifting at sea together for days. The third part of the story is told rather concisely but directly, and there is where the impact of the entire book lies. To say more would be highly spoilery, but I will say that this book is full of deep insights on religion, faith, and belief (or unbelief) in God.
Life of Pi is worth reading, if only for its story alone. But as I’ve said there is more to the story than its events. It is much better if one will think. And choose.