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Pigtopia

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Hailed as a "tour de force" (Los Angeles Times) and a "surprisingly sweet story" (Entertainment Weekly), Kitty Fitzgerald's Pigtopia is a spellbinding debut, featuring one of the most singular characters to come along since Christopher Boone in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Society has rejected Jack Plum. Born with a disfigurement, he is labeled either a monster or an imbecile by his abusive mother and thoughtless neighbors. But Jack has created a haven, his...

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Overview

Hailed as a "tour de force" (Los Angeles Times) and a "surprisingly sweet story" (Entertainment Weekly), Kitty Fitzgerald's Pigtopia is a spellbinding debut, featuring one of the most singular characters to come along since Christopher Boone in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Society has rejected Jack Plum. Born with a disfigurement, he is labeled either a monster or an imbecile by his abusive mother and thoughtless neighbors. But Jack has created a haven, his "pigtopia," a shelter where Jack hides from the world with his beloved pet pigs. Then Jack meets Holly Lock, a sensitive young teenager who lives nearby, and offers her a piglet. Together they forge an unlikely and beautiful friendship, until society and fate intervene and Jack's secret world is threatened by forces beyond his control.

In language of stunning beauty, Kitty Fitzgerald has created a startling original world with characters that will capture your imagination and your heart.

Second-Place Winner of the 2005 2005 Discover Award, Fiction

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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This superbly inventive debut is the story of a disfigured middle-aged man, a misunderstood teenage girl, and a basement full of pigs. Meet Jack Plum, a frightful-looking fellow with an oversized head. Raised by an abusive, alcoholic mother, he has lived the life of a recluse, venturing outside only to run errands and suffering the ridicule of the neighborhood bullies. His sole comfort is the secret "palace," a pig sanctuary he's created in the basement of his home. But aching for a connection beyond the porcine, Jack notices Holly, a young schoolgirl who has always refrained from teasing him. Sensing that she may need him, too, Jack offers her the gift of a baby pig -- and opens the door to an unlikely yet enormously affecting friendship.

The genius of Fitzgerald's novel is in her dual perspectives; the alternating voices of Holly and Jack provide the narrative. Readers sympathize with the adolescent Holly, who's compelled to spend time with Jack, even as their growing friendship distances her from her mother and her classmates. But Fitzgerald truly works her magic with Jack's character, skillfully endowing him with a language all his own to create a window into his strange yet kind and endearing psyche as the tale builds to a shattering climax. Already drawing comparisons to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Pigtopia is a novel of palpable power. (Holiday 2005 Selection)
Publishers Weekly
Irish playwright Fitzgerald's prose reads like the saw-sound of a Gaelic folksong, with most of the macabre moral fable told in the particular patois of Jack Plum, a boy with a monstrous appearance but greater depths of humanity and understanding than most "normal" people. Labeled a freak or an imbecile, Jack lives alone with his abusive mother. His only refuge is the cellar shelter conceived of by his long-absent father as a hidden place to raise pigs. "Without the pigs I would be forsaken of love and perhaps I could turn into anger shapes like Mam does and want to put out blame. I know these types of stirrings-the want to make hurt." Only when he befriends the awkward, young Holly Lock does human friendship enrich his life. But the two share dark secrets, and the deeper and more genuine their friendship becomes, the greater the threat to Jack's "Palace for pigs." This beautifully crafted story retells the classic lesson of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, with much of the innocence and the horror intact. While Fitzgerald brings the book to a somewhat hurried end that plays with the conventions of classical Greek tragedy, this debut novel is still satisfying and heartbreaking. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In her impressive U.S. debut, Irish playwright and poet Fitzgerald introduces Jack Plum, a deformed giant whose compassion and wisdom transcend the indignities he endures. Feared by his neighbors and abused by his mother, Jack takes an innocent interest in Holly Lock, a lonely outsider among the village teenagers who taunt him. Their relationship becomes a haven in which two misfits with bruised spirits discover and celebrate the curative powers of friendship-though they also risk the hostilities of those who misunderstand them. Both characters convincingly narrate the story in alternating chapters, but it is Jack's musical voice that invites reading aloud: his gentle, wistful cadences sound like a new kind of sean-nos singing (unaccompanied traditional singing in Irish). Although the novel concludes swiftly and sadly, Jack assures Holly-and us-that hope can flourish in the midst of heartbreak. Reminiscent of John Gardner's Grendel, this is highly recommended.-John G. Matthews, CTS/Cataloging, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A contemporary fable infused with religious overtones about a physically deformed, morally pure man whose innocent involvement with a village teenager threatens the paradise he's created for himself. Born with a huge, misshapen head, Jack Plum has lived for 30-odd years considered a retarded freak by most of the outside world. His increasingly demented invalid mother's repeated refrain that his father deserted them because of Jack wounds the most because his own memories are filled with his father's affection. His father, a butcher who came from a village called Eden, wanted to raise pigs, not for slaughter but because they fascinated him. Together father and son were working on a secret pig shelter in their cellar when his father disappeared. Jack has carried on the work and created a perfect haven for the rare-breed pigs with which he has a special affinity. His intuitive, equally finely tuned sense of people and his loneliness lead him to seek out Holly Lock. A burgeoning adolescent who does not want to leave childhood behind, Holly feels abandoned by her single mother (absent fathers loom large here) who has a new boyfriend, pressured by her needy friend Samantha and uncomfortable with the attentions of neighbor boy Colin. Holly becomes Jack's true friend, sharing his love for the pigs. When his mother dies, he and Holly dispose of the body and find proof that his father did not abandon Jack; he died on his way to arrange a new life for the two of them. But by opening his world to Holly, Jack makes himself vulnerable to outside forces. Ferreting out Holly's secret friendship, Samantha, herself wounded, assumes the worst. She and Colin, acting out of ignorant protectiveness and viciousjealousy, destroy Jack's world. Technically dazzling, but the inspirational Christian spiritualism becomes heavy-handed.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401360108
  • Publisher: Miramax Books
  • Publication date: 9/13/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256

Meet the Author

Kitty Fitzgerald
Kitty Fitzgerald
Irish poet Kitty Fitzgerald broke out with a poignantly original debut novel, Pigtopia -- the story of a disfigured middle-aged man, a misunderstood teenage girl, and a basement full of pigs. Not surprisingly, in our interview, she names Babe as a favorite film.

Biography

Kitty Fitzgerald is an Irish novelist, poet, and playwright. Her previous works include Small Acts of Treachery, Snapdragons, and Marge.

Author biography courtesy of Miramax Books.

Good To Know

Some fun facts from our interview with Fitzgerald:

"I was the last butter maid in Devon, England, in 1975. I won the skipping race at school every year from the age of 6 to 11. I can stand on my head for a long time."

"After a long walk in the mountains, I like to sit and stare at an open fire while eating toast and drinking tea. I don't like bullies. I enjoy singing. I hate housework. I adore dogs but dislike people who turn dogs into toys or substitute babies. I don't eat pork! I dream a lot, often epics and recurring ones. I especially like to dream about flying. I hope that greed and fundamentalism of all shades don't destroy us."

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    1. Date of Birth:
      September 25, 1946
    2. Place of Birth:
      Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland
    1. Education:
      B.Ed. with distinction, 1979

Read an Excerpt

2. Holly Lock’s World

Y’know when you wake up from a frightening dream, how the edges of everything are blurred, like the everyday picture of the world hasn’t had time to come back? Well, when I was there, standing so close to Jack Plum, it was like things had shifted just a little bit, like it wasn’t real time. All the way up the uneven path from the wood I felt as if I was wading in custard. I didn’t look behind at all, just kept going and I had a stitch by the time I got to the others.

It had all dropped back into place by then, no more fuzziness. Samantha’s bored face was sharp and clear. She lives on our street and she calls herself my best friend, but she’s always going off and trying out new girls or getting a boyfriend. Then I don’t see her outside school for weeks and weeks, till it all goes wrong, which it always does. She can get a bit clingy and people don’t like that -- sometimes it freaks me. Because she’s very pretty she gets away with a lot. Anyway, she was fed up with the skateboarding competition and wanted me to join a team for a game of cricket, but I shrugged her off. She’d just come back to me after getting really close to this girl Paula for a few weeks, so I didn’t see why I should do everything she wanted all of a sudden. I thought she was going to complain, as per usual, when I said I was going home, but she didn’t -- something just shifted behind her eyes like she was notching up my faults. Or maybe I was feeling a bit paranoid. My legs were unsteady and I wanted to be in my bedroom, alone, to think about what had happened so I didn’t give a damn.

I lay on the bed for about half an hour. My head was all sort of frantic, hopping about from one thing to another and I wasn’t sure if I was trembling because I was still scared or if it was just relief. It’s funny about dreams, how they make this world seem unreal and how you get similar feelings when you’re frightened, like it all goes out of focus for a few seconds. I mean, I was only meters away from our house when Jack Plum spoke to me, but I felt as if I was in some other unexpected place. Mam says I’ve got an “excess of imagination” as if it’s some sort of hormone imbalance but maybe it’s all just chemicals.

I calmed down slowly and then began asking myself questions. I mean, how did Jack Plum know when my birthday was? It was a surprise to me that he knew my name, as I didn’t even know he could talk. Then I thought, what if he’d been stalking me, like those nutters do, following me, digging through the rubbish in our bin, looking for information. But he didn’t try to stop me when I started to run, and he could have, the size of him.

When I felt better I got up and looked at myself in the long mirror. Too small, too skinny, no breasts, mad hair, doggy sort of a face, more like a lad than a lass. Why would anyone want to stalk me? I was a runt -- that’s what Dad used to call me before he took off. He said if I’d been born a dog, I’d have been dumped at birth. Charming. Mam always took my side when he went on about me not being pretty -- she reckoned she’d been a bit of a tomboy herself. But whenever she bought clothes for me they were always a bit too big or a bit too flouncy, like she was secretly willing me to grow up.

My room is great -- I chose the colors, the bedding and the blinds. Green’s my favorite color, all shades of green, but especially the darker ones like emerald, viridian, olive. I’ve got an en suite shower, bath, washbasin and toilet with sage green tiles. Next to the wide window there’s a wood and metal plant stand. This is cool because I want to work with plants when I leave school. Not sure what exactly I want to do, maybe train to be a botanist. What I’d really love is to discover a new species of plant and have it named after me. That’s why I go into Pardes Wood. It’s a very old coniferous forest and there’s always the chance of finding something unusual. I was on the hunt for a ghost orchid today, Epipogium aphyllum. It’s only been seen aboveground a couple of times in the past century and apparently likes the shady area below beech trees. There’s plenty of those in Pardes Wood, especially at this end. Saxifraga is one of my favorite plants, Saxifraga sarmentosa, better known as mother of thousands. The little plants at the end of the runners can grow as long as sixty centimeters. I’ve got one hanging above my bathroom window with the extensions drooping right down over the glass like old lace.

On my stand there’s Paphiopedilum callosum, slipper orchid; Ipheion uniflorum, spring starflower, the Froyle Mill variety which has beautiful purple flowers; Felicia amelloides, kingfisher daisy; and my absolute favorite, Pelargonium crispum, lemon geranium. It smells fabulous all the time but when you pinch and rub the leaves between your fingers it’s heavenly. It’s a very thirsty little beast but it doesn’t like being misted.

Mam got home while I was watering the plants. I heard her in the kitchen. I thought of telling her about Jack Plum but then remembered that I shouldn’t have been in the woods alone anyway.

It was pepperoni pizza for tea, followed by strawberry cheesecake. My choice. Mam and me take it in turns to choose what we eat. It’s really so she can make me eat proper food every other day, but that’s okay because I can choose anything I want on my days. And after tea on Fridays we always have a quiz and score points. I do one set of questions and she does another. The first to get twenty points is owed a favor, like she sometimes wants help with the ironing or I want some new music.

I like it at home. Just me and Mam, it’s relaxing, but I couldn’t let on at school -- everyone’s always moaning on about their parents splitting up, not giving enough pocket money, grounding them for no good reason or not letting them smoke, etc., etc. I’m lucky, I guess, because when Dad left things got better. No more of him griefing us all the time. Being on my own’s good but I’m not that comfortable in a group -- never know what to say -- unlike Samantha, who can rabbit on for hours. Sometimes I go through the motions, hang out, pretend I’m enjoying myself -- you’ve got to. If I owned up at school that I’d rather stay in and watch a video with my mam than hang around the dingy precinct sharing a bottle of cider and a joint, they’d think I was crazy.

Sometimes I do wonder why Dad didn’t love me enough to stay and why he’s never bothered to get in touch, not even at Xmas time or birthdays.

The pizzas were already in the oven when I got downstairs. I could smell the garlic. The radio was turned low on one of those seventies’ hits stations and Mam was wiggling about to the music, trying to sing along with it, but she only knew a few of the lyrics, as usual. My mam knows the first lines of hundreds of songs and she doesn’t always get them right. She was a punk when she was a teenager. I’ve seen photos of her with a Mohawk hairdo and six earrings in each ear. Black clothes were all the rage then, and she’s saved some in a trunk in case the fashion comes back. Now she wears her hair long -- it’s dark and very glossy and she likes long skirts and bright-colored tops, sort of ageing hippie style.

I said hi and she replied, “Hello, sweetheart. Everything okay?”

“Yeah, fine,” I said. She handed me the knives and forks to lay the table, and just then one of her favorite songs came on the radio and she grabbed me and made me dance round the kitchen with her.

Does he love you
how can you know
how can you tell if he loves you so
Is it in his eyes. . . .
When the song ended we were both out of breath. We dropped onto the kitchen chairs, laughing like mad, and I suddenly thought: I don’t care if I never grow up. Sometimes the other girls at school talk about boys and sex in a way that scares me and I just don’t feel like I’m ready for it. I’m not sure if it’s because of how I feel about my body not being developed or more than that.

Bodies are strange. What’s on the outside doesn’t always match up with what’s on the inside. Like I feel very mature for my age but I don’t look it, and Jack Plum looks like a monster but his voice was sweet and soft. He also looks like an adult but doesn’t act like one. Truth was, I had no idea how old he was or what was really wrong with him. I’d always been told to keep out of his way, to leave him alone, just like all the other kids round here. Usually, he stayed away from us as well.

“Mam, y’know Jack Plum,” I said casually. “Is he a boy or is he a man?”

“Why are you asking about Jack Plum?” she said.

“School project,” I replied. This is always the best tactic if Mam’s worried, as schoolwork is sacred in our house.

“A school project about Jack Plum?” she went on, as we sat down to eat. She obviously wasn’t convinced.

“Yeah, special needs and all that, y’know.” Only a small lie.

“Oh,” she said, “okay. Well, I’d probably say he’s neither a man or a boy -- he’s a mixture of both.”

I tried to concentrate on eating for a while, but my curiosity kept niggling at me.

“What happened to Jack Plum? Was he born like that, with that massive head, or did he have an accident?”

“He was born that way.”

“Is he dangerous, mam?”

“It’s difficult,” she said after a pause.

“What is?”

“Well, nobody really knows what’s wrong with Jack Plum.”

“Has he ever done anything bad?”

She looked right at me and her face was sort of sad. “No, Holly,” she said, “I don’t think Jack Plum’s ever done anything wrong.”

“So he’s not dangerous, then?”

“Is this really for a project?”

“Yes,” I insisted. Only way to get a straight answer.

“He’s never been in trouble as far as I know and I don’t think he’s dangerous, Holly, but you never can tell. I’ve not seen much of him since he was a boy, because he hides himself away, as you know, but I just don’t think you can ever be really sure with people like Jack Plum. I mean, he’s been alone with his mother all this time and she’s a very unpleasant woman. Okay?”

“D’you know her, then, Mrs. Plum?”

“No, not really. She’s lived round here all her life, but she’s older than me and -- ”

“What about the dad? Where’s he at?”

“Enough questions for now. Time for my bath. We’ll have the pudding later, okay?”

It was my turn to wash up, so I tuned in to Radio 1 and listened to the charts. Mam came back wearing her dressing gown, looking shiny and hot. She cheered up during the quiz because she loves cheesecake and she scored twenty points. When we watched TV, sitting together on the big sofa, she hugged me tight until it was time to do my homework. Biology and French, not too mind-numbing.

It was dark when I’d finished. I stared out at the street and saw Colin Driver and his lot hanging around, trying to look cool with tabs hanging out of their mouths and baseball caps pushed up. Bloody Chavers. Then I went downstairs to say good night and do Mam’s evening ritual with her.

Before Gran and Grandad Logan went to live in Canada they gave us loads of stuff, and one thing Mam loves is this old tarot pack. She says it was bought in China over a hundred years ago by some relative who was in the merchant navy. The pictures are really beautiful, but you have to be careful because they’re hand painted. Anyway, every night Mam lays the twenty-two cards of the major arcana out face-down, and picks one card. This is supposed to give her guidance on how best to act the following day. She likes me to be with her when she does it because Gran Logan said I had “good energy,” whatever that means. It all seems a bit haphazard to me, but I wouldn’t say that to Mam.

She got the Death card. It always makes me shiver, even though Mam says it’s got nothing to do with death and everything to do with change. There’s this skeleton dressed in armor riding a white horse and holding a black flag with a rose and the roman numerals for thirteen on it. In front of him is a holy man and two females, one very young. In the background the sun is coming up behind a strange landscape with a tower on the horizon.

“It represents a positive change, Holly,” she tells me.

“Changing old ways of thinking. Thirteen was a lucky number in days gone by.” If you say so, Mam.

Back in my room Jack Plum kept drifting into my head. He’d always been there, in that scruffy house at the entrance to Pardes Wood, hiding himself away. We were all terrified of passing his house when we were little. Now, Colin taunts him sometimes, if his mates are around, but he’s still scared underneath. You can tell by his eyes and the way he always looks ready to run. It was definitely weird -- Jack Plum trying to talk to me like that, wishing me happy birthday, like there was some purpose to it, almost like he knew me.

In bed, I was restless, kept getting knotted up in the duvet, then getting cold when I threw it off. I got up while it was still dark to fetch some juice from the kitchen. My mouth felt sour and dry. Before I got back into bed I turned the lights off to peep out into the street. It was dark and gloomy in between the patches of light from the lampposts and I could almost imagine someone lurking in the shadows, watching. Then I saw Jack Plum, striding along the road, pulling a cart piled up high with bits of wood. He looked up at my window as he passed and raised his hand in a wave. As I dropped the curtain my body flashed with heat. For a few seconds I couldn’t tell if I was awake or dreaming.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
Rating Distribution

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(9)

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This is a keeper

    I was not sure when I started it but within a couple pages I was hooked.
    I could not put it down and thought about the theme for a long time.
    Do not judge a book by its cover.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Not your everyday book.

    When I first started reading, i didn't know if i'd be able to get through it. It took me a while to get use to Jack's language. I struggled trough the first chapter thinking I had made a mistake buying the book. But I do encourage you to read on. This book was nothing like i expected. It teaches us a lesson that is long over due. The amount of emotion you feel for each character is truly amazing. : )

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2008

    If you're looking for something a little different...look no furthter

    This was a wonderful book. Not what I usually would read but very, very good. Gets your emotions going and makes you think about how cruel and judgemental we all can be.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2008

    Stephen King meets E.B. White

    This book was fantastic. It is partly written as a fairy tale, but there is most certainly a deep message carried in this well thought out story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2007

    A Fairy-Tale Read

    An imaginative, interesting, and poignant story of friendship, loyalty, and love. The first few pages made me nervous, as I was afraid I wouldn't be able to adjust to the 'other-worldly' voice of the main character. I had nothing to fear: by about the fifth page, I was sailing along effortlessly! A quirky, imaginative, and heart-wrenching novel, with characters you won't soon forget.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2007

    Fabulous Book

    At first I wasn't sure whether I would like the book. By the end, I was overwhelmed to the point of crying. The pig language is difficult reading but so well done. It is a fairy tale and horror story combined. Whatever you read, don't miss this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2006

    Unforgettable, a classic

    This novel is a classic. I'm willing to bet that in ten years time everyone will be wondering how it didn't win every literary prize going. The main characters, Jack and Holly are amazing and their pure, innocent relationship is full of wonder. Even when the going gets tough, their concern for each other shines through. The narrative is tight and compelling and the ending, although inevitably tragic, is written with great skill and love. If you don't read another book this year, read this one. It is full of compassion and written with great skill and love. Not to be missed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2006

    ' A must read'

    I just finished the book last week & am sad that it is over. It was kinda hard to follow at first with Jack's pig talk- but then the change to the next chapter being 'Holly Lock's World' helped the flow easier. It makes you feel sorry for the way Jack is treated & is such a truth to our society that if you don't look normal you are treated like a freak. I highly recommend this -but get a box of Kleenex- I still want to cry thinking about the ending.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2006

    Startling

    This book has scorched my heart. The amazing human/pig language took my breath away, so much so that I couldn't put the book down. I read it in one sitting and ended up in floods of tears. This is a writer who knows the true potential of the human heart who can create unforgettable characters employ lyrical language and tell a brilliant story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2006

    Awkward

    Pigtopia opens in a jumble of words that require reading aloud for comprehension. Once the reader becomes accustomed to the narrator, Jack's, language, the book becomes easier to handle. However, in an effort to build a rapid-moving plot, the book is hurried and dis-interested. There is a lot of Holly Lock that the reader does not get to see. Upon finishing the book, the reader feels as if they have been made the fool by archetypal characters and heavy-handed prose.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2005

    Beautiful Masterpiece

    What caught my eye about this book was a review saying how it retells the classic story of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein so of course I had to buy it. Pigtopia is a truely touching story of human nature. It was very hard to put down. I found it very creative and insightful. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Atypical writing portrays life's typical judgments

    On the contrary to some wavering apprehensions made of Jack's character's language, I think it was of a genius way to induct introversion into the minds of the average person. Though this story ended more abrupt than expected, leaving much questions hovering, it allows the reader to dwell on the author's moral intention. There are some scenarios in Pigtopia that may not be for the fainthearted, though the universal picture Fitzgerald wants heard goes far beyond the dirty lurkings of human thoughts and choices; equality.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2008

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