How compelling the fantasy of real life is! Today, we have movies sold and packaged as real life and real life sold and packaged as movies. On television, “real life” has become everyone’s favorite escapism. The story of everyday life, with al its mundane adventure, can cause a spark in people. But what about when real life adventures become magical? Well then, that spark becomes the mystical link between the reader and whatever Higher Power is in fashion at the moment.
Life of Pi is a perfect example. Set in the Pacific Ocean, it is a castaway’s struggle to survive against all possible obstacles. As with all castaway books, the hero must face the ravages of hunger, thirst and despair. He has a long voyage from Manila to Mexico, on the edge of certain death with every breath he took. What makes Pi different from say, Robinson Crusoe, is that he shares his boat with a similarly hungry, 450 pound Bengal tiger. Of course.
What more can a book-lover ask for but a well-written novel that takes the reader away from their cares and makes them happy to be alive and out of immediate, life-threatening danger? This novel is easily read with likeable characters (including the tiger) and the most belieable fantasy that I have ever read. On the back of the jacket, another reviewer was reminded of The Old Man and the Sea. I hardly see where they compare. My dislike of Hemmingway aside, this story is so much more than the trials of bringing “the Big One” back to land. This book looked straight to the heart of every difficulty, whether they be mental, spiritual or physical, and fighting all of them using only the gifts afforded by God or nature.
This is the perfect book to read, while inside, eating something spicy and warm while it is coldly raining outside. The wetness of both physical and mental realities make for a heady experience and a need to fully enjoy life. It entrances the senses and shows how that enjoyment, at any moment, could be cut short by mere serendipity.
But does this book come through, as it promises on both the jacket and between the pages, that the story of Pi can make you believe in God? I don’t know the answer to that. However, I can say that it made me more fully aware of the fullness of the human experience.