I read. A lot. I decided I ought to write more about what I read. I’m not confined to a genre or topic. I’ll read anything. I’ve pushed my way through more than one really hard book. One.Word.At.A.Time. A thousand page challenge can be knocked out in less than a year three pages a day. A short, easy, fun read might take me less than a day for a few hundred pages.
I haven’t read a bad book by Barbara Kingsolver yet. Some of her books can be uncomfortable and challenging, The Poisonwood Bible certainly wasn’t an easy, light book. But it was worth it.
Pigs in Heaven continues the story of Taylor and her adopted daughter Turtle. Like most of the hundreds of books I’d put on my favorite list it has a good message woven through a great story. Or maybe several good messages. And the story carries them beautifully without any preaching or moralizing.
There is no one theme but rather several related themes, family and culture, independence and interdependence, connection and communication, gender and love, sacrifice and responsibility.
The first page of chapter one begins with Taylor’s mother, Alice, in bed with her second husband. Not very many authors could get away with starting a page-turner with two old farts in bed. Beautiful.
“She married him two years ago for love, or so she thought, and he’s a good enough man but a devotee of household silence. His idea of marriage is to spray WD-40 on anything that squeaks. Even on the nights when he turns over and holds her, Harland has no words for Alice–nothing to contradict all the years she lay alone, feeling the cold seep through her like cave air, turning her breasts to limestone from the inside out. This marriage has failed to warm her.”
Alice and Taylor are my kind of gals, they want relationships based on connection and affection but don’t need men. Alice doesn’t stick around to watch Harland watch TV and order mixing bowl sets off the Home Shopping Network. She packs her bags and goes to Taylor and Turtle. Taylor and Turtle are on the run at this point. I don’t want to spoil the plot so go read for yourself to get more details on this.
I love the exploration of priorities in this book. Taylor will do anything for Turtle, give up anything, even Turtle herself if need be. People and family and this little girl who got dumped on her are her motives. What is family for a single woman with an adopted daughter and no where to go? What is family for the little girl, abused and unwanted and given to a stranger in the parking lot of a bar? Is family only blood and clan or something much broader and more flexible?
The contrast of TV and reality, of priorities and responsibility is well handled. Television is almost a character of it’s own. Recognition on TV, the fakery and ensuing fame cause no end of trouble for Taylor and Turtle. Alice refuses a third marriage solely on the basis that she won’t compete with a TV set and at one point muses on how much better it is to participate in life than watch it broadcast from distant lands.
Taylor is a single mother in trouble but she refuses to be a project for a man to fix. And she will not compromise her little girl for her own comfort or a man’s. I do, however, wonder where she found her boyfriend. What would it be like to be loved like Jax loves Taylor and by extension Turtle? Taylor doesn’t appreciate his affection until she discovers she needs family. Her fierce independence softens into a more human interdependence and broader understanding of family. The attachment between Turtle and Taylor is strong and beautiful but they both need more, two is not a family nor a tribe.
I enjoyed this book tremendously, getting caught up in the story and falling in love with the characters. It manages to be both a page turner and a mind turner. I won’t bore you with the paper I could write on this book. I’ve barely scratched the surface here.