Pigs Can't Swim

( 2 )

Overview


An outrageous, hilarious, and touching memoir by the youngest of nine children in a hardscrabble, beyond-eccentric Maine family.

With everything happening on Helen Peppe’s backwoods Maine farm, life was wild--and not just for the animals. Sibling rivalry, rock-bottom poverty, feral male chauvinism, sex in the hayloft: everything seemed--and was--out of control. In telling her wayward family tale, Peppe manages deadpan humor, an unerring eye for the absurd, and poignant ...

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Pigs Can't Swim: A Memoir

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Overview


An outrageous, hilarious, and touching memoir by the youngest of nine children in a hardscrabble, beyond-eccentric Maine family.

With everything happening on Helen Peppe’s backwoods Maine farm, life was wild--and not just for the animals. Sibling rivalry, rock-bottom poverty, feral male chauvinism, sex in the hayloft: everything seemed--and was--out of control. In telling her wayward family tale, Peppe manages deadpan humor, an unerring eye for the absurd, and poignant compassion for her utterly overwhelmed parents. While her feisty resilience and candor will inevitably remind readers of Jeannette Walls or Mary Karr, Peppe's wry insight and moments of tenderness with family and animals are entirely her own. As Richard Hoffman, the author of Half the House: A Memoir puts it: "Pigs Can't Swim is an unruly, joyous troublemaker of a book." 

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Kirkus Reviews, 12/15/13

“A writer and photographer’s wry but poignant account of her hardscrabble childhood and adolescence in rural New England…Unsentimental in its character portrayals and forthright yet humorous in its depiction of devastated innocence and family dysfunction, Peppe’s book is a celebration of difference, resilience and the healing power of love.”

Booklist, 1/1/2014

“[Peppe’s] recollections make for vivid, powerful stories”

Portland Press Herald1/26/14

“Much of this book is laugh-out-loud funny, but there are poignant, sad moments as well…Peppe takes the reader on an up-close tour of what life was like in rural parts of Maine a few decades ago.”

Bookreporter, 2/4/14

“In telling her family’s story, Peppe manages deadpan humor, an unerring eye for the absurd, and a touching compassion for her utterly overwhelmed parents. While her feisty resilience and candor will inevitably remind readers of Jeanette Wall or Mary Karr, Peppe’s wry insight and moments of tenderness with family and animals are entirely her own.”

The HIPPO, 2/20/2014

“The book tells with exquisite and excruciating detail of her life growing up on a rural Maine farm as the youngest of nine siblings.”

Down East Magazine, March 2014

“An elegant, honest collection of anecdotes about growing up…Rich sensory details and deadpan humor complement Peppe’s head-on dive into her childhood dreams and realities…Peppe captures the wonderment and confusion of childhood, weaving an image of Maine that is dark, magical, and unquestionably memorable.”

DailyCandy Boston, 3/4/14
Pigs Can’t Swim pulled us in. Not that Helen Peppe’s memoir didn’t already have us in its grip, with its pity-free mix of pathos, humor, and four-legged obsession…the author’s greatest trick is threading the needle of pain and laughter as she relays difficult tales…wrenching, funny, and uplifting memoir.”

Times Record, 3/30/14
“Alternately funny, poignant, and painful, Pigs Can’t Swim is a snapshot of life in Maine, the way no one believes it should ever be, and the true story of a young girl’s coming of age, despite all odds.”

Maine Living, 4/10/2014
“Helen Peppe’s story dives into the deep end of the pool and paints with startling clarity, a picture of a family … Rooting for her at the turn of every page, I laughed and cried… I was left craving more…I recommend this tale to those who feast on well-written literature, rich descriptions, and wry humor found in the most unlikely places. Many times I was reminded of the memoirs of Mary Karr as I read about a gritty life that is portrayed as sad, hilarious, and insane, all at the same time. Pigs Can’t Swim does more than entertain. It gives hope; hope that anyone can rise above her circumstances in life; and that indeed, pigs can swim after all.”

Maine Sunday Telegram, Bestseller 4/27/14

Kirkus Reviews
2013-12-08
A writer and photographer's wry but poignant account of her hardscrabble childhood and adolescence in rural New England. Peppe grew up on an isolated Maine farm the youngest child of nine. Her housewife mother left school after eighth grade, and her ex-Army father worked as the fix-it man for the local post office. They struggled to keep afloat financially, yet pride kept them from admitting they were anything but middle class. In their chaotic household, the eldest children occupied themselves with smoking, drinking, fighting and sex. Peppe only added to the furor with her penchant for asking questions that her harried parents could never answer, like whether or not it was "sad for live chickens to see [them] plucking the dead ones." To everyone in her family, Peppe became "queer." She was the little girl whose deep sympathy for animals and inability to see the ones she loved get slaughtered for food drove her to become a vegetarian. She escaped the harshness of her environment by seeking the companionship of animals, especially dogs and horses. Peppe also immersed herself in books by British veterinarian James Herriot and, later, fellow Mainer Stephen King, whose terrifying fictional worlds "seemed so much safer than [her] own reality." By the time she entered high school, she had survived not only the taunts and coldness of her family, but also sexual assault. Peppe began dating a pastor's pianist son who looked "a bit like a chimpanzee" but played like he belonged at Juilliard. Parental disapproval and a miscarriage at age 16 only served to strengthen the bond between Peppe and the boy, who became her future husband. Unsentimental in its character portrayals and forthright yet humorous in its depiction of devastated innocence and family dysfunction, Peppe's book is a celebration of difference, resilience and the healing power of love.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306822728
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 2/4/2014
  • Series: A Merloyd Lawrence Book
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 389,250
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Helen Peppe

Helen Peppe began writing stories, mostly about animals, on scraps of butcher paper when she was knee-high to a horse. (All of her furry characters lived happily ever after.) As a student, she wrote short stories and personal essays while working as a professional photographer specializing in horses and dogs. She lives near Portland, Maine, with her husband, Eric, her children, four dogs, four rescued rabbits, four guinea pigs, and two destructive kittens.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2014

    Pigs Can't Swim

    Poignant well written depiction of growing up in a challenging situation. Ms. Peppee shares the antics and heartbreaks of her large complex family. I could identify with many of the story lines. Would highly recommend.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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