You may have seen the movie of this book, but have you read it? It made it’s way into my hands as many others do, by the recommendation of a friend who loved it. This was back in my 20’s when I was questioning much about the human psyche and asking existential questions about life. This book later led to a great debate in a book club that I facilitated. Half of us believed it was all a metaphor while the other half took it literally. Once you read it, I am curious to hear your opinion in the comments below!
This is a fantasy book that mostly reads like realistic fiction. On the surface this is a survival story of a young boy caught adrift in a lifeboat with a tiger for nearly a year. He comes from a family of zookeepers who were transporting their animals by freighter. This is how he wound up with a tiger in his lifeboat. It is sensory, gripping, and emotional at many points. Some parts dragged but I felt like that was giving me the feeling of being adrift out at sea. It tackles ideas of family relationships, religion, and life philosophies. From the very beginning there is a debate about whether it is cruel to have animals in zoos, and then this turns into a sort of psychology later on. The author explores psychological and spiritual issues throughout the book.
What I like about this book:
- The way the boy practiced 3 major religions and could see the unity in them.
- The idea that we see the world through the lens of the stories we tell ourselves. “The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story?”
- Traveling into the psyche of someone lost at sea both literally and figuratively.
- Learning a bit about India.
- Getting something new out of it each time I read it. “I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always … so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.”
- Often the language or style of the author’s writing drew me in. Such as: “Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud…”
- Some consider the book tedious, over-descriptive, or boring. It does require time and some thought to go through. But the ending may knock your socks off and change your perspective about what is true in life, in yourself, or in God.
- Some think it is depressing but I would never recommend a book that wasn’t full of hope and love underneath it all.
- Those who are not interested in God stuff have felt that there was a moral agenda being stuffed down their throats.
I was giving up. I would have given up – if a voice hadn’t made itself heard in my heart. The voice said “I will not die. I refuse it. I will make it through this nightmare. I will beat the odds, as great as they are. I have survived so far, miraculously. Now I will turn miracle into routine. The amazing will be seen everyday.” -Yann Martel