I came upon Life of Pi at a used bookstore a while back. It is one of those books I had heard about and knew I had to read. After I bought it, it sat on my bookshelf for months, untouched. I even loaned it out before I had read it for myself. It wasn’t until I saw the audiobook at my local library that I finally went on the wild ride of Pi’s life.
The book opens with the unusual story of Pi’s name and delves into his exploration of religion, and life as a zookeeper’s son, waking up to the sound of a pride of lions rather than an alarm clock. Though I learned a lot about zoology and theology, the first third of the book read almost like a textbook at times. Still, I loved the descriptions of the zoo and the animals. He describes the zoo as a “hot and humid place, bathed in sunshine and bright colours…” with a “riot of flowers…” He says, “To me, it was paradise on earth.” It felt that way to me, too.
Part Two begins with the tragic sinking of the Tsimtsum and the start of Pi’s fantastical story as a castaway for 227 days. Yann Martel paints the world of life at sea so realistically I could nearly feel the sun and salt on my skin.
Martel tells the story in such a way that, no matter how unbelievable the events of the story may be, you believe every word.
“If you stumble about believability, what are you living for? … Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?”
Life of Pi is both heartbreaking and inspiring. It is at times, bleak and at others, uplifting. I found myself on the verge of tears and depressed the entire morning after reading about the last pages written in Pi’s diary on the lifeboat: “Do you see these invisible spirals on the margins of the page? I thought I would run out of paper. It was the pens that ran out.” This was the moment my heart broke for Pi. As a writer, I found this moment among the most tragic of events in Pi’s adventure.
The language is simple, but beautiful, colorful and imaginative. It is a book that makes me believe in the art storytelling.
If you are like me and left this book to collect dust, I implore you to go pull it from your shelf now. When you have finished, go watch the movie. The movie will make you fall in love with the story all over again.
I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the book:
“All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive.”