My book club just finished reading Life of Pi. It is a fascinating book that looks at religion and science, salvation and survival, animal instinct and human behavior. There are several layers to this novel and it is only at the end that you realize that you must go back and put all the pieces together. Thanks to a good book club, we were able to bring all our thoughts to the table and consider what Yann Martel might have been saying.
The main character, Piscine Patel, grows up in India as the son of a zookeeper. From the beginning he is drawn to religion and actually actively participates in several faiths at the same time. Piscine is often made fun of for his name, so he shortens it to Pi- that wonderful mathematical, transcendent, irrational number. His name change truly reflects his struggle- a scientific person and a story telling person. Can a person integrate things that seem mutually exclusive? Do all religions really meet in one? Can a rational scientific person believe in a religion that requires faith?
When his family decides to sell the zoo and move to Canada, Pi finds himself on a ship with his family and several zoo animals that are to be sold to foreign countries. The ship sinks and Pi makes it on to the lifeboat, along with a few wild animals. From there the story develops with many gruesome details as Pi takes us on his journey with a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra and a Bengal tiger.
What makes this book spectacular to me is the ending. I love the kind of movie in which the last scene stops you in your tracks and causes you to reevaluate everything you just saw. This book is one of those kinds of experiences. At the end, a book club was almost necessary to retrace what I had read.
We’ve now read To Kill A Mockingbird, Blue Like Jazz, and Life of Pi. Our last selection of the school year is A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. We are planning a July book club where we can have dinner together with menu items that highlight all the regions that we have been to over the year. If you’ve read Life of Pi, you might find that a little funny 🙂