Sunday, April 6, 2014

Pigs Can't Swim by Helen Peppe

Helen Peppe cracked me up! Growing up as the youngest of nine children, she manages to tell us the story of the family's non-exciting, everyday life in a manner that enthralls the reader, without ever naming a player except herself and her later-to-be husband.

Her descriptions of life in this rural section of Maine include delightful stories of sibling rivalries, overburdened parents, the poverty of the area,  and the everyday sexual antics of her sisters.  Interspersed with the human stories she relates her interactions with a variety of animals who lived on the farm.  The fact that many of these animals often found their way to the family dinner table was a constant source of pain to young Helen, who tried valiantly to live a vegetarian life.

The Cast of characters is enough to make me want to pick this up and read it again:
Mom  known only as Honey
Dad called the "Old Goat"
The sisters:
 "The sad tittering sister"
 "The hair twirling pretty sister"
"The sister who holds grudges longer than God"
"The sister of poor choices"

The Brothers:
"The blustery and favored brother"
"The tough yet admirable brother"

There are a couple others, but these just tickled me.  Helen learns her sexual mores from her sisters (all of whom seemed to have become pregnant before age 16), the farm animals, and her mother's rather impressive  lack of information sharing.

The vignettes she shares about growing up in the midst of unorganized chaos could have been a depressing exposè of poverty and poor parenting.  Instead, she gives us a glance of a happy child who makes choices that bring her to adulthood with an intact psyche and a love of nature and animals that carries through life's travails.  A happy, hope-filled book.  

Title: Pigs Can't Swim
Author: Helen Peppe
Publisher: Da Capo Press (2014), Hardcover, 272 pages
Genre: Memoir
Subject: growing up in rural Maine
Setting: farm in Maine
Source: ARC from the publisher via Net Galley
Why did I read this book now? I was offered a copy to review.


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