Melissa T's Reviews > A Day No Pigs Would Die

A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
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's review
Apr 15, 12

This is definitely a book that will elicit strong emotions!

What I liked: the simple prose, the effortless storytelling that truly could have originated from a 12 year old boy. I appreciated the quiet wisdom of the father, the courage to accept what is inevitably a hard life, not only as a farmer but as a butcher, or as any hired laborer. Peck skillfully captures the sentiment of the farmer, who is proud to own his own land and "captain his own ship". To work for another man, although often necessary, robs the independent farmer of a bit of his dignity.

What I didn't like: the brutalization of animals was repellant. I grew up on a farm, admittedly not in the same time period, and not in the Shaker tradition, but still; many farm life experiences transcend the years. I understand and accept as normal the "natural" life occurrences of animal husbandry. Births and deaths are nearly everyday events. What bothered me where the contrived scenarios, when the human caretakers of the animals placed them in situations that inevitably ended in sorrow.

Sympathetic to the animals, and perhaps more willing to recognize their feelings, or at least accept that they did have feelings, the main character's conscience squirmed noticeably when the animals were placed in vulnerable positions. However, as a boy, he respectfully deferred to the adults who ultimately controlled the situations.

And in that deference lies the tragedy. Although the protagonist hints that his father is also uncomfortable, the father puts his faith in the wisdom of generations, in the common sense that is widely accepted, instead of trusting his own heart. Clearly, there is a lesson to be taken from this calamitous deference.

The writing is potent, and I cannot deny that I will remember this book, with both its joyous and mournful episodes. However, the stinging misery of the sad episodes is so much more poignant, it nearly erased some of the more joyful times, and I was hard pressed to recall them. Ultimately, I appreciated the author's ability to convey powerful feeling, and to make the characters believable and human, capable of both walking tall and falling down occasionally. Therein lies the lesson, if I am wise enough to recognize it.

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