by Yann Martel
I often have a difficult time writing about books I love. I feel like I won’t do them justice, or that I won’t be able to explain well enough why a person should go read this book right now. I feel that way about this book. It is an amazing novel.
So, how to talk about it? How not to spoil the magic by giving away too much?
I’ll start with the narrative structure. It is told as a story within a story in precisely 100 short chapters. The tone, the level of description, the pacing all grabbed me and sucked me in, and I knew I would keep reading (compulsively) until I was finished. Not so unusual, you might be thinking, but considering that you know early on how it will end, and how long it will take, that is something of a feat. This is the story of a boy who is shipwrecked, and survives in a lifeboat for months. With a tiger. And finds God with him as he floats across the Pacific Ocean.
Actually, a character in the book, who is quoted on the bookjacket, says it will make you believe in God, and asks if a reader can “reasonably ask for anything more.” Having a belief in a higher power before reading the book, I can’t really say if it will make a person believe or not. I think it will at least make someone who didn’t believe see why another person would. As Pi (who to the consternation of all around him, has followed a Hindu and a Muslim and a Christian path) says: “Faith in God is an opening up, a letting go, a deep trust, a free act of love–but sometimes it was so hard to love.”
Not that the author is proselytizing. He isn’t. He is telling his story and the twist in the end has to do with believability, but a reader is left with open options.
The book is beautiful, for its descriptions of animals (the main character’s father is a zoo keeper in India) and the ocean. And faith, and believability.
I can’t resist another quote. Near the end, when two men are questioning Pi, and doubting his story, he tells them this:
Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to belief, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?
I will probably reread this book, and soon. L also read it, and we are thinking about reading it out loud to each other. It has catapulted itself into each of our mythical “top five novels” lists. I loved Life of Pi and can’t recommend it enough.