Life of Pi, and at whom I secretly snickered behind their backs.
Life of Pi is that one novel that I've consciously avoided. The reason is because I had several mistaken impressions about what it really was — it was about a talking tiger, it was a shamelessly religious novel, it was a silly kid's book. And I never did much deeper thinking or reading about the book to correct those wrongs.
A few weeks ago, I found a cheap mass market paperback at an independent bookstore here in Chicago, and I wanted to buy something there, so I grabbed it — and then read it in about three sittings. I won't say it'll ever be my favorite novel of all time, but it actually is really, really good. More importantly, it fulfilled one of my favorite criteria regarding good fiction: It made me think really hard about some pretty deep, heady questions.
Formally reviewing this novel at this point — after everyone and their brother's sister has read it — would be akin to trying to find something new to say about Huckleberry Finn or The Great Gatsby. So, instead, because so many people have read it, and because this is a book that screams to be discussed, let's have a conversation here.
(SPOILER ALERT - if you haven't read the novel yet, you may want to stop here.)
So if I'm not mistaken, the rub seems to be related to the existence of God, and how organized religion (ritual, belief systems, etc.) supplements or is detrimental to our understanding of God. This isn't apparent until the end, though. Even as we follow Pi through the first section in Pondicherry, India, and wonder with him why he can't be Hindu, Muslim and Christian all at once, it's not apparent what the religious discussions may have to do with anything else, other than just showing that Pi takes a rather philosophical approach to theology. As he begins to fall into a routine (ritual?) on his life raft, he stops a few times to ponder existentially about his place in the universe. But, at that point, I was still just reading the novel as an headier-than-thou adventure story.
It's not really until the last section when Pi tells the "alternate" and much more horrific version of the story to the Japanese business men, and then tells them they should decide on the story they like better. Of course, he's also telling the reader s/he must decide, too — and not just about his story, about whether or not you want to believe there's a God, because you can't prove that there is, and you can't prove that there isn't. So pick the story you like more.
So, which story did you pick — do you think the tiger story is the real one, or the more gruesome story about the cook and the sailor and Pi's mother? (My vote is the latter.)
Also, anyone have any favorite passages? This book is wonderfully written, and I found myself stopping and rereading sections just to better digest the language. My favorite is the entire Chapter 78 — Martel begins by describing the sky and then the sea, and then moves onto a discussion about opposites and duality. "The worst pair of opposites is boredom and terror." I just loved it!