In a whole different wavelength--here are some questions you can be thinking about while reading The Life of Pi.
1. Yann Martel recalls that many Pondicherry residents provided him with stories, but he was most intrigued by this tale because Mr. Adirubasamy said it would make him believe in God. Did Pi's tale alter your beliefs about God?
2. Early in the novel we discover that the narrator majored in religious studies and zoology. In subsequent chapters, he explains the ways in which religions and zoos are both steeped in illusion. Discuss some of the other ways in which these two fields find unlikely compatibility.
3. Yann Martel sprinkles the novel with italicized memories of the "real" Pi Patel and wonders in his author's note whether fiction is "the selective transforming of reality, the twisting of it to bring out its essence." If this is so, what is the essence of Pi. And what is the essence of reality?
4. How might the novel's flavor have been changed if Pi's sole surviving animal were the zebra or Orange Juice? (We assume that if the hyena had been the only surviving animal, Pi would not have lived to tell us his story.)
5. In chapter 23, Pi sparks a lively debate when all three of his spiritual advisors try to claim him. At the heart of this confrontations is Pi's insistence that he cannot accept an exclusively Hindu, Christian, or Muslim faith; he can only be content with all three. What is Pi seeking that can only be attained by this apparent contradiction?
6. What do you make of Pi's assertion at the beginning of chapter 16 that we are all "in limbo, without religion, until some figure introduces us to God"?
7. How do the human beings in your world reflect the animal behavior observed by Pi? What do Pi's strategies for dealing with Richard Parker teach us about confronting the fearsome creatures in ourselves (or in our lives)?
8. Besides the loss of his family and possessions, what else did Pi lose when the Tsimtsum sank? What did he gain?
9. Nearly everyone experiences a turning point that represents the transition from youth to adulthood, albeit seldom as traumatic as Pi's. What events marks your coming of age?
10. Why did Pi at first try so hard to save Richard Parker? (This question confuses me because, like some of the other questions--it makes me wonder if the person writing these questions really understands what happened. Make of it what you will--I still think it is an interesting question.)
Not all of these questions are great, so ignore the ones that don't interest you. However, since Kami and I were looking for a jumping off point--these questions should help with that. I feel as rusty with nonfiction as I felt with fiction by the end of my master's degree.