Book review: Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
Piscine Molitor Patel (nickname: Pi) grows up as an impressionable young son of a zookeeper in India. When the family decides to sell the zoo animals and relocate to Canada, they board a cargo ship with the caged animals and set off. Tragedy strikes, the ship sinks, and young Pi (now sixteen, I think) finds himself on a 20-foot lifeboat with a wounded zebra, a hyperactive hyena, a likeable orangutan and a waiting tiger as his only companions. Soon, as you can imagine, it’s just he and the tiger.
Let’s back up. Pi’s passion is Christ. Well, and Muhammed. And Krishna. As a practicing Christian, Muslim, and Hindu in India, he sees no reason to choose between the three, but this drives his three spiritual advisors batty. Only one of the three can be right, right? The stage is set for a journey which will uncover God, for that is the book’s promise: to deliver a story that will make you believe in God.
But in the middle of the shark-infested Pacific ocean, with a ferocious Bengal tiger filling most of the lifeboat, God seems to slip out of the story. Where has God gone? Why bother introducing Pi’s triune confusion, if only to let God slide by the wayside? Most readers, I’m convinced, will never find Him again. You won’t find God either, if you don’t keep your eyes open, or if you point those eyes only up to heaven. Even those who imagine they have uncovered Martel’s postmodern message may be unwilling to probe inside the fanciful tale atop the banal story wherein God dwells.