Author: Kitty Fitzgerald
Genre: Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 256
Warning: This book review contains MAJOR spoilers. Proceed at your own risk!
Pigtopia is a contrived, emotionally manipulative mess that is an unsteady combination of grotesquerie and sentimentality. The voice of the main character, Jack Plum, is so obviously a literary construct that it’s hard to stay anchored to anything in the story. In the book, a pre-teen girl named Holly Lock who feels different from the other people in her small Irish community unexpectedly befriends Jack Plum, a severely disfigured hermit in his 30’s who lives with his abusive mother.
Jack adores his pet pigs and has created a ‘pigtopia’ for them in his basement that opens up to the outside. He gifts Holly with a pet pig and they spend hours happily together, Holly keeping her friendship with Jack a secret. Unfortunately, Holly’s spiteful ‘friend’ Samantha becomes jealous of their relationship and make a falses rape accusation against Jack, leading to tragic consequences for the unlikely friends. The characters of Samantha and Jack’s mom felt so fake, total caricatures.
Every time Samantha showed up in a scene to simper and rub provocatively against Jack it was like nails on a chalkboard. I saw the rape accusation coming from a mile away, it was so predictable, and they were leading up to it for ages. I hated how they tacked on the plotline of Samantha being raped by her father and tried to make excuses for her actions. Jack was even like, ‘don’t judge her too harshly.’
It seems like authors have an obsession with giving horrible female characters rape/molestation backstories to try to explain away their awfulness. Like, it’s okay that she hurts people because a man hurt her first. Why is this such a prevalent trope? I love myself a good Gothic and I was intrigued by this book’s anachronistic vibe, permeating a feeling of oldness and decay while incorporating references to modern technology.
It had potential and I will admit it engaged my emotions at times, even though I knew I was being shamelessly manipulated. Jack is the prototypical marginalized and scapegoated yet extremely wise disabled character. He picks up on things no one else can and achieves Christlike proportions at times. I would have sympathized with him and Holly more (as we were so clearly supposed to) if they hadn’t DISMEMBERED JACK’S MOTHER AND FED HER TO THE PIGS halfway through the book.
She was already dead but… yikes. That put a bad taste in my mouth. Basically they don’t want Jack to be institutionalized so they figure out how to get rid of the body and pretend she’s not dead. And Jack OD’s at the end to escape his victimization at the hands of the ‘humanpigs’ (his cute term for people) and has Holly feed him to his beloved pets so he can become ‘one with them’ because of course he does.
It’s just so manipulative and yucky and his final speech (kind of a Green Mile type thing where he talks about being sick and tired of human cruelty) had me rolling my eyes. A disabled person touched by unusual humanity and wiseness is a trope, but it works well sometimes depending on how it’s handled (like the protagonist in the movie Sling Blade.) This wasn’t handled well. At all. Such a waste of a promising premise, the author should have made it less disgusting or given it the full horror treatment.