NESFA Members' Reviews

Life of Pi

by Yann Martel

Harcourt, 2002 [2001], ISBN 0-15-602732-1

A book review by Elisabeth Carey

This either is, or is not, a fantasy. Pi may cross the Pacific in a lifeboat with a tiger as fellow-traveler, and spend some time on a floating pseudo-island of carnivorous plants, or he may just hallucinate very creatively.

Pi is the son of an Indian zookeeper, who for various reasons decides to sell the zoo and move to Canada. Dispersing the zoo animals to their new homes means taking some of them on the same ship the family is traveling to Canada on. The ship is caught in a bad storm and wrecked; Pi finds himself in a lifeboat with several animals, including the tiger. The tiger soon disposes of the other animals, and then it's him and Pi.

Or maybe not. When the lifeboat reaches the west coast of Mexico, the tiger takes off into the wilderness, and there's no evidence to support the story that Pi tells when he recovers enough to tell it. It might all be the product of his fevered imagination--the effects of his months of privation and isolation. Or he might just be making it all up.

Whatever the case, Pi's a great storyteller, and this is a thoroughly enjoyable book.

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