(This review first appeared in May 2003)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel.  Harvest Books (2003), 336 pages.

The zebra’s broken leg was missing. The hyena had bitten it off and dragged it to the stern, behind the zebra. A flap of skin hung limply over the raw stump. Blood was still dripping. The victim bore its suffering patiently, without showy remonstrations. A slow and constant grinding of its teeth was the only visible sign of distress.

Yes, a gruesome excerpt, but I want to be sure you understand just what you will be getting involved in here. The book begins with a boy, a tiger, a hyena, an orangutan and a wounded zebra in a small boat on the Pacific Ocean. As you can imagine, things do not go well between the five of them. There is blood and pain and terrible suffering. I could not put Life of Pi down. I think of the tiger constantly and miss him terribly.  Truly one of the best and most original books of the year.