A boy, a boat, and a tiger. This book’s introduction could not get any simpler than this. But is it really? Life of Pi has much more to it than just being a tale about a boy nicknamed Pi being stranded on a single lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a royal Bengal tiger. It is book about faith, survival, friendship, and showing that fiction and reality are just figments of our imagination.
This book was written by the Booker Prize winner Yann Martell about an Indian boy Piscine Molitor Patel who lives at the Pondicherry Zoo with his parents and brother. The book begins with a slow opening into the life of Pi at the zoo and his struggles with his own religious identity. The story takes place against the backdrop of political problems that drive Piscine’s family to sell their zoo and animals to move to Canada.
But Pi’s adventures really begin when the ship that his entire family is travelling on sinks, leaving only him as the single human survivor. The middle part of the book is extremely visual and pursues the exotic life on the sea with the castaway Pi as the protagonist narrating the entire story. The book is an enrapturing read due to Pi surviving with his only companion, Richard Parker the tiger, though the narrative on the lifeboat is very matter-of-fact. For example, it covers the routines of catching fish and capturing rainwater day in and day out.
Though he is a character who is torn between religions, Pi shows immense belief in three different faiths throughout his ordeal via his monologues with God and the tiger. The story takes us through the journey of the infinite i.e. the infiniteness of Mother Nature and the value of having infinite patience, faith, and hope in order to survive.
Pi and Richard Parker float on the Pacific for 227 days with a love and hate relationship where Pi survives due to his wits and his zoological knowledge that prevent the tiger from eating him. After all their trials and tribulations, they land in Mexico where Pi is investigated by two Japanese men from a shipping company. This is where the final twist in the story happens and leaves us to question the difference between reality and perception.