Life of Pi by Yann Martel
I listened to this book on CD and found it to be well done. The book is broken up into three parts. The first section focuses on the life of a boy named Pi Patel and his life as the son of a zoo owner in Pondicherry, India. Much of the book discusses philosophy, religion, and zoology. Interestingly, Pi follows Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam much to his parents and respective religious leaders' bewilderment.
As the first section ends and the 2nd begins, his parents sell the animals of the zoo and make plans to move to Canada. Their journey across the Pacific begins aboard a ship that also includes the zoo animals. After a short time at sea, the ship sinks and Pi finds himself in a lifeboat with an assortment of animals such as a zebra, a hyena, a rat, some cockroaches, a chimpanzee, and a tiger. The assortment of animals fight it out in sequential battles until finally only the tiger and Pi are left. Pi proceeds to live with the tiger on the life raft and uses his knowledge of animals gained from growing up around the zoo to survive. He learns to fish, and make fresh water with distillers and has a tenuous mutual existence with the tiger in which he actually provides food and water to it and manages to stay alive. The elements, hunger, thirst, and lack of sleep are constant companions and result in a very difficult existence for him. After roughly 7 months at sea, he lands in Mexico and is rescued.
In the third section, we learn a second version of the sinking of the ship and his subsequent journey across the ocean through an interview of Pi by some men from Japan.
The first section can be a bit tedious at times but provides good context for the second and third. Good explanation of various animals and zoological information is provided as well as a relatively good overview of 3 major world religions.
The second section is outstanding and causes one to get involved with Pi and his travails hoping for him to make it through. On more than one occasion, I found myself sitting in the car after arriving at a destination to listen to a little bit more of the story.
The third section is very short and gives a bit of a change in direction from where the reader expects it to go. After getting to the end, I was interested in re-reading it to pick up on symbolism throughout the book.
One element of the book that can throw one off is the use of two narrators, an "author", and then Pi himself. An unnamed author, not Martel, is an actual character/narrator for some of the chapters. I'm not certain why Martel chose to use this style as it seemed a bit of a distraction rather than adding significantly to the story.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommend it as an unusual but fascinating story.
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