The Life of Pi

(Click on image to link to Amazon)

I was not excited about reading this book because I have bad memories of reading The Old Man and the Sea in high school. I thought the Hemingway version was insufferably long and monotonous. Much to my surprise, I found this book rather refreshing. With about two - three hours of audio and 15 - 30 minutes of reading per day i finished this book in a little less than six days.

On a scale of 1 - 5

Sex: 0

Religion: 4

Gruesome: 5

Suspense: 3

Morality: 4

Sex - Writing the review one week later I don't remember any, not even a fantasy when he's in the boat

Religion - Especially in the first section when Pi actually practices three different religions (Hindu, Christian, Muslim) it seemed like a spiritual quest similar to The Alchemist or The Celestine Prophecy. I only marked it down one point because there was a lot of hype early on that Pi's story could make you believe in God. Even though there was so much talk in the beginning it seemed like the chef brought all the ingredients but forgot to assemble the dish. It was interesting to see Pi's first impressions of Christ when he first entered the Christian church. He saw pictures of angels and the crucifixion and said, "Where is God?"

Gruesome - The survival story resulted in animals eating each other and human cannibalism. It is stomach churning, I do not recommend reading this while eating.

Suspense - Average, it held my interest but i could rest easy no matter what point I stopped at. There were a couple of threads that kept me curious.

Morality - No outrageous affairs but some questionable choices or actions. Some may be offended at Pi's multiple religions. At the end Pi caves and tells investigators what they want to hear.

This book was a little frustrating in the beginning because it is unclear who is speaking.

The book starts off slow. Part One is 93 pages.

In Chapter One someone starts telling us about themselves.

In Chapter Two there are italicized observations of physical characteristics.

Chapter Three is more information like Chapter One. It seems like a lot of rambling about the history of various things with vague connections to the life of this person.

In the middle of Chapter Four it starts to get into the zoo and religious observations and follow a sort of flow that a reader can actually become interested in. The humor picks up here too, like when the transition of the father from hotel keeper to zoo keeper is described (it's the same but the guests never leave their rooms, p. 13)

Chapter Five is Pi's child hood school life an where his name came from.

Chapter Six is italicized food talk. It points to observations on the person in the coffee shop by saying "We are in India" even though we already know Pi is in Canada.

Chapter 12 is italicized observations on Pi (because Richard Parker still preys on his mind).

Chapter 15 is more italicized observations on unknown. This is the end of the italics.

Chapter 16 around page 47 he begins exploring religion. As a teen he begins to dabble in all three religions. There is a somewhat comical scene when Pi is walking on a beach with his parents and meets all three religious leaders/conservators at once. The chapter concludes with preparations to move from India to Canada.

Part Two are events in a lifeboat through page 286. I won't tell you the entire cast so you can enjoy the surprise. The gore begins on page 120 when a creature rips off and eats a portion of another creature. It is less than half a page but a few pages later there is a more vicious scene. There is a large reprieve from the gore during which there is always something interesting happening. Things I wouldn't consider - like clothes disintegrating from sun and salt. There is even some humor - mostly irony. Like when he wishes for a book (and here we are reading one)!

Part Three - one final story through page 319.

Discussion Questions

The book begins with an Author's Note that sets up a wrap-around. I generally don't like wrap-arounds and this one is no exception. The author sets us up to believe that while trying to write a work of fiction he was in an Indian coffee house and met a man who told him Pi's story and encouraged him to talk to Mr. Pi himself. So eventually the author went to Canada and located Pi. And Martel claims he went further and got a tape from the Japanese Ministry of Transport and after hearing the tape he agreed with the man in the Indian coffee shop, "that this was, indeed, a story to make you believe in God."

Question: What does the Author's Note contribute to the story?

Question: If you believe the Author's Note - who do you think found the manuscript mailed to a non-existent address and what do you suppose they did with it? What would you do if you found something like that?

Quote page xii: If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams.

Question: How do you feel about this quote?

Question: On page 17 it says that animals are happy in the zoo just as we would not be happy if someone threw open our door and set us free. Do you agree?

Question: Did Pi's experience in zoos save his life or could any casual observer have figured it out?

Question: On page 242 with the conversation of food - who is he talking to? Anyone?

On page 248 it says he fell into a fog again and woke up with a gasp. Now who is he talking to? Anyone?

Question: Do you believe a floating island could exist.

Question: After all he went through, do you think Pi's feelings about Richard Parker leaving are reasonable? Logical?

Quote end of Chapter 16: ...Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims."

Question: Discuss the quote.

Quote: To choose doubt as a way of life is to choose immobility as a way of transportation.

Question: Discuss the quote.

Quote: People walk by a leper or beggar and think business as usual but perceive a slight against God and get offended. (p. 70 / Ch. 25)

Question: Contrast this observation with the common practice in the media to bleep out M_____ F_____ but leave in G__ D____.

Question: Compare and contrast Pi and Lot (Biblical character who had years and years of bad fortune but wouldn't stop praising God.)

Question: Did you notice the similarities between the two stories (with and without animals)?

Question: In what ways would this story make non-believers into believers?

Theme Ideas

Serve pie!

Banana Cream pie would be especially appropriate.

Deviled eggs could represent turtle eggs.

Serve rice and sambar - the first foods Pi mentions when dreaming of food.

Mexican food and music to celebrate his arrival in Mexico.

The month we were to meet and discuss this book (July 2012) our hostess went all out and made Indian food and adorable cookies. And NOBODY showed up - a book club first. So sorry dear friend - but thanks for allowing me to post your pictures.

Check out the tiger tails on the drinks!

Richard Parker cookies and vanilla ice cream to go with them!