Delightful Descriptions of “Pigs in Heaven”

March 11, 2011
Enjoy a “novel full of miracles,” according to Newsweek, with a delightfully told tale of ordinary people.

Books on My Shelf Feature: PIGS IN HEAVEN

When I wasn’t sure what topic I could write today, I noticed on my table a book I just finished but hadn’t yet reshelved. This gave me an idea; when I am stuck for a topic, I can periodically select a book I enjoy and share what I like about it, hoping you will like it too.

This series of “Books on My Shelf” reviews will introduce you to books for times when you are waiting for the car to be repaired, when you have to wait for your spouse to finish shopping, or when you are procrastinating a chore you dread. There are, of course, other times a book would come in handy.


Barbara Kingsolver's Pigs in HeavenI have just finished reading, for the second time, Pigs in Heaven, a bestseller by one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver. Set in the southwest, it is a sequel to The Bean Trees but is great all by itself.

Not only is the story of love, truth and family engaging, but the characters are so well-drawn that I am sure I would know them if they walked through my door.

However, it is the author’s talent for describing small events that pleases my heart as I read. Kingsolver’s analogies are so spot on that I know exactly what she means.

Here are a few of her observations that are delightful descriptions of ordinary life:

“Her long hair slides behind her shoulders like a curtain drawn open.”

“Jax would like his own baby. . . . He would wear one of those corduroy zipper cocoons with the baby wiggling inside, waiting for metamorphosis.”

“The brass knocker on the front door is huge, as if to suggest you ought to be a fairly good-sized person to bother those within.”

“Above the roofs, the chimney pipes puff like smoking boys hiding out in the woods, giving away their location. “

“Earlene plumps herself down next to the nursing mother. The baby is making a good deal of noise at his task, sounding like the squeaky wheel determined to get all the grease.”

Annawake sits at the edge of the pond at night and “swirls her legs in the water, watching the reflected stars tremble in each other’s company. The water is warmer than the air, and moves against her skin as if it cared for her.”

When several men watch a pot of oil boiling — in preparation for a hog fest to welcome back a member of the Cherokee nation who had gone away for several years — I think almost any reader would recognize the attitude of the men who have assumed their role in getting food on the table.

“Sugar’s husband, Roscoe, in the company of all the other old men, is standing watch over Letty’s big iron washpot, which is settled like a hen on a white nest of coals. . . . Inside the enormous pot, a thousand thumbsized pieces of what was yesterday a live fat hog swirl upward in the cracking oil. . . .

“Roscoe and his friends are studying the heat of the fire and the level of oil in the pot with the attitude men take on occasions like this, feeling the weight of their supervisory powers. Sugar smiles. A woman knows she can walk away from a pot to tend something else and the pot will go on boiling; if she couldn’t, this world would end at once.”

Sugar and Alice are discussing their husband’s lack of conversational skills. Alice says that she left her husband because she just couldn’t stand the quiet.

“Oh, honey, don’t I know. I think Roscoe used up his whole vocabulary when he asked me to marry him. All that’s left now is ‘Where’s it at?’ and ‘When’s dinner?’ “

Alice breathes a little deeper. Sympathizing over the behavior of men is the baking soda of women’s friendships, it seems, the thing that makes them bubble and rise.

Alice and Cash are in the kitchen of a log cabin.

Cash moves through the kitchen the way a lanky squirrel might, if a squirrel could cook: stepping quickly from sink to stove, pausing, sensing the air. By comparison, Alice feels like the lazy squirrel wife, sitting at the table separating hickory nuts from their crushed shells. . . .  For reasons she couldn’t explain, the naked, curled little nuts remind her of babies waiting to get born.

NOTE: Since I love metaphors, in this post I have shared a few of the many analogies that made the story so memorable. I also encourage you to send me analogies from other books that I can then share with my readers.

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Here are a some related posts from this blog, and articles from the Support4Change website:

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