Book Review of Life of Pi

Life of Pi
Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Book Type: Paperback
reviewed on + 151 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1


Piscine Molitar Patel spent his early years growing up in Pondicherry, India, where his father owned and ran a small zoo. His father shared much of his knowledge of wild animal behavior with him and his brother, Ravi.

He changes his name from Piscine to Pi when he changes schools because his classmates at the former school had taken to mispronouncing his name "pissing." He's noticed that without meaning to, that his teachers do that as well. He does it with much flair and aplomb, so much so, that even the few students from the old school who are at this new school accept the new name.

He is anxious to learn, and while his family is nominally Hindu, he befriends the priest at a local Catholic church and is studying Christianity. He also befriends a Muslim man in town and is studying Islam. He is happily and faithfully practicing all three religions until one day he is walking through a park with his parents and both the priest and Muslim man come upon them at the same time. Now his parents learn that he is a practicing Hindu, Christian and Muslim. They all argue that he cannot be all three -- yet this is what Pi desires. In the end, he is allowed to continue practicing all three religions.

At age 16, his father decides to relocate the family to Canada and sells many of the zoo animals and takes a few with the family as they emigrate to Canada.

A few days after leaving, Pi is awaken by a loud noise and gets up to explore what has happened. He notices that some of the animals are out of their cages and that water is entering the boat. He tries to find someone onboard to help him and his family and when he approaches some Chinese sailors for help, they put a life vest on his and toss him overboard onto a lifeboat. He is soon joined in the lifeboat by a zebra who has jumped overboard.

As the ship is sinking, Pi sees Richard Parker and, perhaps foolishly, assists him into the life boat. Upon realizing the foolishness of bringing Richard Parker onboard, he jumps into the Pacific. Only to scamper back to the lifeboat when he sees there are sharks in the water. He finds a place to temporarily hide from Richard Parker, the tiger he assumes is under the tarpaulin.

In the morning, he discovers that in addition to the zebra there is a hyena onboard and thinks, that Richard Parker must have fallen overboard. Surely there can't be both a tiger and hyena on the same boat and alive at the same time.

Then he rescues Orange Juice, a female orang-utan, who is floating by on a netted pile of bananas that had been in the ships hold. He saves the netting, which proves to be a good move, but does not save a single banana.

Soon Pi finds that he is alone in the boat with the tiger and has to devise a plan for how to survive on the boat with a tiger. He uses the knowledge he gained from his father to make the tiger fear him more than he fears the tiger.

It's amazing how a book that has roughly two-thirds of it's content be about floating in the ocean can be so enthralling. Pi's observations of life and his life are very engaging. His struggle to survive a world with dangers all around him kept me reading. One of the things that stands out for me is how his decision to figure out how to coexist with the tiger at one point actually saved his life and how at one point, he could have continued his journey and left Richard Parker behind, but didn't.