When a book becomes a movie, watching a few trailers gives away the plot. This is usually enough to keep me away. When I saw Life of Pi on the side of the road, I almost didn't pick it up. But, free books. The movie didn't tell me the best part of the story: the first hundred pages or so are all about how a spiritually inquisitive teenager finds religions.
I loved it.
The religious interlude climaxes when two priests, a catholic and a Hindu, and a devout Muslim baker meet their young follower. One teenager simultaneously pursuing three religions. The three mentors fought over which religion Pi rightfully belonged to. His youthful idealism crashed and burned. However humorously, Pi raises a profound question: why is it that religion must be something argued and fought and won or lost? Why can't it be something celebrated?
Great books raise these questions. Life of Pi did this and more. Here are the questions written in my reading notes:
Reality vs. story.
Can you believe a liar?
What does God really want?
Is religion actually a coping mechanism for guilt?
Losing a mother is the deepest emotion.
All this from a fiction book seemingly aimed at the young. Five stars.
This is everything I was from fiction: deeply religious, yet driven by a compelling story. There's a moment at the beginning, where Pi is confronted by his three spiritual mentors, a Catholic Priest, a Hindu Priest, and a devout Muslim baker. They're shocked he's simultaneously participating in their religions; he's shocked that this isn't an acceptable practice. It's a wonderful moment, and I only wish this book had more of them.
The story is familiar to anyone who's seen the trailer for the film. Except the religious overtones, dark thoughts expressed, and mind-bending paradigm shift at the end really make this book what it is, and all are missing from the film. Good literature makes you think; great literature makes you think deeply and newly about important things. This book is certainly the latter.