Life of Pi

life of pi

I picked up a copy of Life of Pi a while ago, while on vacation. Everybody who’d read it told me it was good. Nobody really told me much about it, though, except that there’s this boy on a lifeboat with a tiger, and he doesn’t want to get eaten by the tiger.

Nobody told me it was crazy insane.

So, here’s the thing. If you’re planning on reading Life of Pi, keep this in mind: this book falls under the category of “magical realism,” a popular Spanish form of literature that combines the “real” and the “very, very real” (like war and poverty and other things we don’t like to think about) with the “completely-made-up and scientifically impossible.” Magical realism.

Also keep in mind that if you’re going to read Life of Pi, you actually have to read the whole thing. It’s 400 pages long, and you can’t give up 300 pages into it and say, “Well, he’s still on this freaking lifeboat, and I still don’t see it going anywhere.” Here’s why.

Pages 1-117: Isn’t this supposed to be about a boy on a boat? When does he actually get around to the boat? I sit and think and realize that I’m reading this for pleasure, not for a class. Ignore the plot line, sit back, and enjoy good writing. (This is my best idea yet. Do this.)

Pages 118-303: Oh, now he’s on a boat. Go, Pi, go! Survive that shipwreck! And don’t get eaten by a tiger. Beautiful writing. Best if you don’t expect it to go anywhere, and just enjoy the beautiful writing. Imagine the ocean. Don’t get too thirsty reading about dehydration.

Pages 304-362: This is getting trippy. Now I think I understand why this is considered magical realism.

Pages 363-400: …

Wait, what did Yann Martel just do to my brain?

I got to the end of this book, rethought the entire book for a week, still couldn’t decide what had actually happened, looked it up on Wikipedia, learned even more symbolism I had missed while reading (and thinking about it for a week), and I still don’t know what happened. But I’m pretty sure the author isn’t sure what happened, either. And I’m at peace with it, after a week and some Wikipedia research and realizing this had some religious significance that I missed the first time.

If the religious significance had been more obvious, I would have given this book 5 stars. As it is, I’m giving it 4 stars. It goes from a fun survival story to a huge psychological question mark in about one chapter. It’s ridiculous. If you don’t want your brain twisted, read something else. If you want something that throws you for a loop, however, this book is amazing. ♦

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