Title: Life of Pi (2001)
Author: Yann Martel
Page No.: 319 pages
Publisher: New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Price: $8.47 (paperback)
Genres: fiction; fantasy
Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. (from Goodreads)
In a sudden twist at the end of the book, the readers learn there were never any animal passengers on the lifeboat. Gasp! This realization is jarring to say the least. After Pi’s lifeboat arrives safely to shore in Mexico (and Richard Parker unceremoniously leaves Pi), our hero narrates his tale to insurance officials from the Japanese freight ship. (They came to find out why the ship sank.) Pi’s wilder narrative, while intriguing, isn’t believed by the men. And Pi knows why: “You want a story that won’t surprise you. That will confirm what you already know. That won’t make you see higher or further or differently.” Pi, then, launches into a more straightforward telling of the events where the animals are human survivors from the shipwreck: the tiger/Richard Parker is Pi, the zebra is a sailor, the orangutan/Orange Juice is Pi’s mother Gita, and the hyena is a cook.
“To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.”
“It is simple and brutal: a person can get used to anything, even to killing.”
“To lose a brother is to lose someone with whom you can share the experience of growing old, who is supposed to bring you a sister-in-law and nieces and nephews, creatures who people the tree of your life and give it new branches. To lose your father is to lose the one whose guidance and help you seek, who supports you like a tree trunk supports its branches. To lose your mother, well, that is like losing the sun above you. It is like losing–I’m sorry, I would rather not go on.”
“That’s what fiction is about, isn’t it, the selective transforming of reality? The twisting of it to bring out its essence?”
“I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.”
“All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive.”
On People We Meet
“It is true that those we meet can change us, sometimes so profoundly that we are not the same afterwards, even unto our names.”
“If there’s only one nation in the sky, shouldn’t all passports be valid for it?”
“Life will defend itself no matter how small it is.”
Worth Staying Up Late For (after the kids have gone to bed?):
- Yes, Stay Up Late!
- Maybe, But See What’s on TV First.
- No, Go to Bed!
What could be more important than reading a survival story while trying to “survive” a day in the life of a parent? Pi is a brilliant example of a person who knows how to “swing with it”, as my Gram urges me to do. He even says, “You must take life the way it comes at you and make the best of it.” Pi, with his parents’ guidance, has mastered the art of knowing when to hang on and when to let go.
Pi teaches readers how to channel their inner tiger. As a parent, when I “roar” and when I back down depends on the day and the situation. You just have to pick your battles with your little ones. (A dinner of Cheerios and yogurt in front of the TV, OK? We’re potty training today.)
Sometimes as a stay-at-home mom, I feel like I’m Pi/Richard Parker, the tiger, merely surviving to the end of the day or “limping to the finish line”, AKA bedtime. Pi was on the lifeboat for 227 days. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 1,139 days and counting. My house is the lifeboat. The animal passengers are my children. I’m the ragged seafarer. Some days the waters are calm, the skies sunny. Other days the waters are stormy, the skies gloomy. (If you squint, the food being hurled around the kitchen looks like flying fish.)
In my experience, parenting is not unlike surviving a shipwreck on the Pacific. Both involve incredible acts of will and faith. Sometimes I’m so lonely and overwhelmed I can barely breathe. Other times I’m so happy and joyous I feel like I’ll burst. And then, boom, suddenly I’m not only surviving but thriving.
As a parent, have you ever felt like your head was barely above water?