"This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I found myself standing dangerously close to the edge of a cliff. Far below me was an incredible abyss with no end in sight. I could turn back and safely return to where I had come from, or I could throw caution to the wind, lift my arms up into the air . . . and jump." --From The Elephants in My Backyard
What happens when you spend ten years obsessively pursuing a dream, and then, in the blink of an eye, you learn that you have failed, that the dream will not come true?
In 2003, Rajiv Surendra was filming Mean Girls, playing the beloved rapping mathlete Kevin Gnapoor, when a cameraman insisted he read Yann Martel's Life of Pi.
Mesmerized by all the similarities between Pi and himself--both are five-foot-five with coffee-colored complexions, both share a South Indian culture, both lived by a zoo--when Rajiv learns that Life of Pi will be made into a major motion picture he is convinced that playing the title role is his destiny.
In a great leap of faith Rajiv embarks on a quest to embody the sixteen-year-old Tamil schoolboy. He quits university and buys a one-way ticket from Toronto to South India. He visits the sacred stone temples of Pondicherry, he travels to the frigid waters off the coast of rural Maine, and explores the cobbled streets of Munich. He befriends Yann Martel, a priest, a castaway, an eccentric old woman, and a pack of Tamil schoolboys. He learns how to swim, to spin wool, to keep bees, and to look a tiger in the eye. All the while he is really learning how to dream big, to fail, to survive, to love, and to become who he truly is.
Rajiv Surendra captures the uncertainty, heartache, and joy of finding ones place in the world with sly humor and refreshing honesty. The Elephants in My Backyard is not a journey of goals and victories, but a story of process and determination. It is a spellbinding and profound book for anyone who has ever failed at something and had to find a new path through life.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-09-26
- Reviewer: Staff
In this honest but uneven memoir, actor Surendra chronicles his pursuit to become cast in the lead role of the 2012 film Life of Pi. Surendra discovers the novel that the film is based on during his time on the set of Mean Girls. Surendra is convinced by cultural, physical, and biographical similarities that he is destined to portray Pi, the Tamil teenager at the center of the book, and sets out on a series of adventures to test his ability to embody his beloved character. In an early escapade, Surendra abandons his college life in Toronto to visit Pondicherry, India, the hometown of Pi. Here, the genuinely curious narrator grapples with the pressure of researching for a coveted role while rediscovering his own identity: My first name was the part I thought was authentic, but in that classroom in Pondicherry, I discovered that I had lived my whole life pronouncing my own name incorrectly, like a big dumb-dumb. These reflective moments add breadth to a voice that is otherwise naive to a fault, stumbling awkwardly as he creates insensitive caricatures of some of the minor characters who cross his path. By the end of the journey, casual readers get to experience beekeeping, au-pairing in Munich, and the life of a museum reenactor, but most will likely be left wondering what the books bigger point is. (Nov.)