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The flap copy of Rajiv Surendra’s book The Elephants in My Backyard lists a number of flowery adjectives to describe the story I held in my hands, but the phrase that struck me was “colossal defeats.”
The memoir chronicles the years-long journey of Surendra, known to the world as Kevin G the rapping mathlete from Mean Girls, in his quest to land the lead role in the film adaptation of Life of Pi. If you didn’t already know, a quick IMDB search reveals that this role eventually went to Suraj Sharma.
A Canadian memoir about failure? I was hooked from the start.
A producer on the set of Mean Girls is responsible for Surendra’s obsession. One innocuous day on set, he said to Surendra, “You should read this book. It’s about you.” On first read, the author wasn’t sure what he thought of Life of Pi. By the end of his memoir, the pages of Yann Martel’s story of survival and the power of stories was worn and dog-eared, having travelled to India and back in Surendra’s pocket.
The book’s conversational tone makes it easy to laugh out loud at the—and there are many—jokes. Surendra takes care to describe the people he meets with the love and affection of a good friend. When visiting new places, he defers to their histories with reverence. There is almost nothing Surendra can’t put a positive spin on. Except for germs. I positively squirmed when he went into detail about what he imagined was floating in the waters of public pools.
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