Life of Pi

I recently read Life of Pi. The book was recommended by a yoga teacher as a possible selection for our yoga book group, though the group never read it. Oddly, I was at Barnes & Noble looking for a copy of “The Great Gatsby” when I saw Life of Pi and remembered the title. So I bought it on a whim.

The first part of the book really captivated me. It details the childhood of a boy named Picine Patel (known to the world as “Pi”), a zookeeper’s son who grows up in India in the 1970s. Pi is drawn to all types of spiritual and religious thought, and he “practices” all of the major religions. His days as a spiritual seeker and friend of animals are very engaging. Then the family decides to move to Canada. They are to travel by ship. The ship sinks, and Pi is a castaway for months in the Pacific Ocean, his only companion a tiger named Richard Parker.

I wasn’t as enthralled by the second part of the book. I thought there was going to be more “spirituality” involved, but it was mostly a tale of survival. It wasn’t until I mentioned to someone that I wondered what happened to the spiritual flavor of the book while Pi was struggling to survive that I was reminded that the spiritual component is still there as the story unfolds. After all, this is what happens to many of us when “life” distracts us from our spirituality.

I’ll admit I got a bit bored after the shipwreck though. Pi was obviously going to survive, and it seemed to be taking forever! I was anxious to know how his life turned out and how he came to terms with the loss of his family and the tragedies he witnessed while stranded at sea. But it was worth the wait. The end of this book is compelling in a way that I couldn’t put into words if I tried. I won’t try because I don’t want to spoil it if you haven’t read it. But if you have, I wonder this. Do you find yourself, like me, wondering (either again or for the first time) whether life is just a dream and whether it even matters if we “know” what’s “real” and what’s not.

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