This column will offer reviews of books selected by Larchmont/Mamaroneck book groups. If you would like to review a book your book group has read and discussed, please contact us at: Take our reader's poll!

LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel

Reviewed by Rosita Fichtel, Booklovers

(November 14, 2003) At a time when the world is so divided along religious lines, it’s reassuring to see that Life of Pi has earned such popularity, so much so that for several days last month Barnes and Noble was out of stock. Everyone in our group enjoyed the book with varying levels of enthusiasm.

The book is divided into three parts. In the first section the Indian teenager, Pi, relates his adventures as the son of a zookeeper, and his religious awakening as a fervent believer in Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. He sees not contradiction, but harmony in these three great religions. His story is told with much charm and simplicity. Some Booklovers felt the beginning was slow, but this reader enjoyed this section the most.

The second part relates Pi’s harrowing experience losing his family (and the zoo animals they are transporting) when their ship en route to Canada sinks in the Pacific. Pi finds himself in a lifeboat with four wild animals, where he must use his wits and cunning to survive. This section offers a wealth of information about survival strategies at sea and animal behavior, all told in clear and eloquent prose. One person in Booklovers thought it was "too much fish talk," but everyone agreed that the author took a totally improbable situation and somehow made it both realistic and believable. Indeed, while the book is clearly presented as a novel, the author has written it in such a way that some readers in our group couldn’t help but wonder if it was based on a true story. (Editor’s note: according to the author, it is purely fiction.)

Finally, in the third section the author offers an alternative ending to his story and in doing so explores the meaning of truth and faith.

Yann Martel is a remarkable storyteller, and the central character, Pi, as well as the philosophy interwoven through the book, provide ample material for a lively book group discussion.

Note: An informal discussion of the book will be led by Rev. Tom Nicoll on Sunday, December 7, 11:30-12:30, at St. John's Episcopal Church, at Fountain Square, in Larchmont.

FROM THE EDITORS: We'd love to hear from other Larchmont readers. Take the Book poll and add your comments.

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