Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sad book

A friend recommended I read Robert Peck's A Day No Pigs Would Die. As it is a young adult book, I approached it with some trepidation, thinking myself too "mature". Never mind that I spent part of last night watching video clips of how they made the Watchmen movie.

My attitude didn't really change much as I flew through the book. The book is an autobiographical novel about a young Shaker boy growing up on a farm in Vermont. Since the book is narrated by the boy, the language is very simple to which I give kudos to Peck for being able to pull off. I think it is a difficult thing to write for children, let alone write as a child while being an adult.

As I continued to read, though, I began to wonder why this was a book for children (actually, I think the young adult label is appropriate). The book talks about a lot of the harsh aspects of farm life and has some depiction of killings and matings. There's also some sexual innuendo involving neighbors and a bizarre chapter where a neighbor digs up the body of a child that died in birth along with its mother. Turns out that the neighbor fathered the child even though he was married to another woman. The chapter really had no rhyme or reason in the book and was completely out of place.

The book was often banned by school and libraries in the past for these reasons. If you get past these "issues", you find a good story about growing up as a young Shaker boy. As someone who lives among the Amish, I know a lot of what was written still goes on. Despite the harshness, or maybe because of it, there are strong bonds of love. The boy, Robert, loves the pig he receives as a pet and he loves his family and neighbors. The book concludes with two of these relationships ending because of the death of the loved ones.

I think why I liked this book is because I didn't expect a simply written book about a group of people who live a simple life of hard work, to have much depth. Somehow Peck manages to exhibit the complexity of emotions, despite the simplicity. And that is why I ended a book that took me no time to read with tears in my eyes.

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