'Life of Pi'

Book Review and Book Club Discussion

Life of PiWritten in a first-person narrative, Yann Mantel's Life of Pi tells a tale of courage, faith, hunger, coping, fear, animal behavior and survival.

The Life of Pi is the story of a young Indian adolescent, Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, migrating to Canada. After witnessing the sinking of his cargo ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, he finds himself a lone survivor in a lifeboat with a 450-pound Bengal tiger called Richard Parker. The book narrates Pi’s seven-month ordeal fighting for his life, not just against the rough currents of the Pacific Ocean determined to swallow him, but also against his boat mate, a carnivorous beast that had devoured a zebra, an orangutan and a hyena. Pi knew he was next -- it was just a matter of time.

As the South East Book Club came together on Jan. 29 to discuss the Life of Pi, members were excited about the book and unanimously agreed that Yann Martel’s book is a great read.
Pi’s sanity was a major topic of conversation to members as he had to keep his mind focused and himself active to prevent from going into paranoid delusional thoughts and completely lose touch with reality. Fear of his dreaded companion, the 450-pound tiger, kept him busy designing scheme after scheme to win the psychological war of supremacy between man and animal. Pi’s desire to stay alive and his fear of being eating by a carnivorous beast was more than enough to keep his mind busy.

Another theme discussed was hunger.  Pi had a lot of hope. Hope of being rescued, hope that it was all a dream and he would someday wake up to reunite with his family. And hope kept him alive for seven months in the open sea fishing to feed himself and the tiger, distilling water and gathering rainwater to quench his thirst and that of Richard Parker.

There was general criticism of the Japanese investigators with the general concern that their sole concern was the etiology of the sinking of the Tsimtsum cargo liner. The investigators never once expressed or implied sympathy on the ordeal of the ship’s sole survivor and lives lost but openly expressed disbelief at Pi’s story. Club members found this attitude very inhuman.

The Southeast Book Club will next meet on Feb. 26, to discuss Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, in honor of Black History Month.