Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
Surprisingly, this was not a re-read for me. I know this book has been around forever and I had been hearing of it for a long time. What may be more surprising, though, is that with all the buzz, I really didn’t know anything about the plot going into this book. I picked it up as a Kindle Daily Deal (oh, KDD, how I love thee!) because I like buying titles I recognize for cheap as free.
I feel that a little context is necessary for my review. The week before we made the big cross-country move, my husband was already in Florida getting things set up and starting his job. I was back in Utah packing up everything and taking care of our 18-month-old son, who decided to get RSV exactly eight days before we were scheduled to fly out and two days before my husband was supposed to come home to help me with the final arrangements and such. Long and harrowing story short, I ended up spending a very long and very bad night in the hospital as they monitored my son’s breathing and heart rate (fortunately they didn’t end up having to put him on oxygen and he was better enough to go home the next day). I got very little sleep, due to both the assorted blinking and beeping coming from the monitors and an overabundance of worry from various sources, listed here in roughly descending order: 1) my son, 2) the fact that my husband was out-of-state, 3) the fact that I didn’t have time for this emergency what with the tight packing schedule, 4) the fact that I was moving cross country soon, and 5) the fact that I was hungry and thirsty and suspected that the hospital staff had forgotten their promise to bring me some cheese and crackers and a cup of ice water.
To try and get my mind off of these various issues, I started reading a new book on my Kindle app on my iPhone, and happened to choose Life of Pi. Thus I did not start reading it in the most auspicious of circumstances, nor did I finish reading it in the most auspicious of circumstances. Turns out that a toddler with RSV tends to pass it on to you if he coughs in your face repeatedly because he’s too exhausted to turn his head away from you and is so sick and sad that you can’t put him down for more than 30 seconds at a time. So, three days after our hospital stay, I was fighting through RSV myself while packing up two moving pods. Fortunately my bout did not require any hospital time, but I did spend the bulk of the next day curled up with my iPhone on an air mattress, a lump of pathetic misery, finishing this book. (Needless to say, this move was not the smoothest or most organized one we’ve ever made.)
But as for the book itself: I liked it. It was able to distract me enough from the crappy situation I was going through and entertain and even uplift me. My favorite part was the description of the events leading to Pi’s becoming a devout follower and active practicer of three different religions at once (Hindu, Islam and Christianity). I loved his descriptions of his first encounters with other religions and how he came to love his two adopted religions as well as the religion of his birth. I wish that this theme had been kept up a little more throughout the section on the Pacific Ocean. Not that the Pacific Ocean wasn’t exciting and enthralling as well; but it didn’t have the heart of the book that I had fallen in love with at the beginning, the tripartite faith of this young man.
Like The Princess Bride, this book is written as a frame story, with the narrator ostensibly interviewing an older Pi about his life story. Since, as I said, I knew basically nothing about this book going in, and my Kindle edition didn’t specifically say “A Novel” on it, I wasn’t sure at first if this was fiction or non-fiction. It added another layer to the reading experience for me, wondering if it was actually true or not. I know that part of the point of the book is to look at what is or isn’t true and choose the story that means the most to us, but it still was sad to determine for certain that this book was fiction after I finished reading it, and I think that revelation made me like it a little less than I had. That’s not really fair to the author, of course; but that’s the way it is.
All in all, this book was a solid good read and a much-needed distraction for me during that last horrible week before the move. I don’t know if I would have liked it more or less if I’d read it in different circumstances, but as it is I can recommend it as a good book, as long as you don’t get too squeamish (certain of the lifeboat scenes are a bit gruesome). Three stars.