Life of Pi

Since Life of Pi won the Booker prize and has received rave reviews almost everywhere, I thought I could get away with just recommending it in my sidebar and not actually reviewing it. But Kristina just finished it and her experience was much different than mine, so I thought I should at least offer a few words on the difference in our perspectives.

It’s hard to say anything interesting about Life of Pi without giving away the ending, because so much rides on the last 20 pages or so. In fact, until that point, Kristina and I are in complete agreement. Pi is touching, funny, and beautifully written. It’s a fantastical journey, yet it still manages to offer real-world insights into philosophy, religion, and the human ability to cope with unspeakable tragedy. It’s both a great story and a demonstration of the incredible (and perhaps healing?) power of a great story.

Kristina and I both thought the book was great until the last 20 pages, at which point it became one of the best books I’ve read in some time and one of the most frustrating and disappointing that Kristina has ever read. I was moved to tears (in public, on an airplane of all places) by a twist that made the book much more profound, though admittedly heartbreaking. This same twist left Kristina feeling betrayed by the author. In her words, it was just too “unbearably sad.”

Ultimately, I stand by my recommendation. But I do understand Kristina’s point of view, so I’ll add this caveat: be prepared by the ending, which will force you to reevaluate the entire book with a new perspective. You’re bound to have a strong emotional reaction, which may make the book better for you or may make it worse, so proceed at your own risk.