Richard Parker has stayed with me. I’ve never forgotten him. Dare I say I miss him? I do. I miss him. I still see him in my dreams. They are nightmares mostly, but nightmares tinged with love. Such is the strangeness of the human heart. I still cannot understand how he could abandon me so unceremoniously, without any sort of goodbye, without looking back even once. That pain is like an axe that chops at my heart.
A good friend of mine recommended me to read this book a while back, being mostly a popular science and science fiction reader, I reluctantly pick up the book after the repeated mention and urging. The story was better than what I had ever expected.
Life of Pi is a story about a young Indian boy’s survival across the vast pacific ocean on a life boat with a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Rules of nature ran its course and pretty soon there was only the tiger and Pi. Both of them survived for 227 days together before being rescued with Pi using his wits and vast knowledge on animals, being the son of a zookeeper.
The story is seperated into three parts. First was the childhood of Pi revolving around his strange religious behaviour (being a Hindu, Muslim, and Christian all at the same time) and his young life revolving around the family’s zoo in Pondicherry, a small area in southern India.
The family then decided to migrate to Canada together with some of the animals on a cargo ship, which brings us to the second part of the story: the sea survival. This part makes up the bulk of the book while not being draggy. Though we know that Pi will survive at the end, the story still moves with good pace with Pi overcoming each challenges brought upon him with the presence of Richard Parker, the weather, the food supply, and so forth.
The relatively short last part detailed Pi’s interview with the Japanese authority regarding his survival story. Pi then told them two versions of the story, one being the fascinating but at times unbelievable survival tale with the tiger, while the other version without the tiger but with the horror of human cruelty in desperate survival situation. The author then left us with our own decision to choose which story is to believe.
Life of Pi is one of those stories that will leave you thinking after you finish the novel. A departure from the lesser stories such as that controversy book about code breaking and Christianity, or the next legal thriller from Grisham.
A group in UK has made this story into a successful play, and the the movie is scheduled for 2007. I can’t wait.
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Author: Yann Martel