Thursday, August 14, 2014

Classic Retread: The Pigman

Published:  2005 (first published in 1968)
The Pigman (The Pigman #1)
By: Paul Zindel
ISBN-13:  9780060757353

When sophmores John and Lorraine played a practical joke a few months ago on a stranger named Angelo Pignati, they had no idea what they were starting.  Virtually overnight, almost against their will, the two befriended the lonely old man; it wasn't long before they were more comfortable in his house than their own.  But now Mr. Pignati is dead.  And for John and Lorraine, the only way to find peace is to write down their friend's story - the story of the Pigman.


     John and Lorraine are both sophmores at the same school and became friends entirely by chance.  Neither one feels very wanted at home for one reason or another, and the two of them love to get into rebellious mischief with each other.  They have a game with some of the other kids to see who can call a stranger and keep them on the phone the longest.  One day they call Mr. Angelo Pignati pretending to be charity workers looking for donations and are surprised by how sorry they feel.  They go to his house to "pick up" a donation, and end up striking up a friendship with this lost man, who seems alone in the world.  But how far can things go and how much can John and Lorraine take advantage of him before harmful consequences are visited upon them?
     This definitely is a little bit dated, owing mostly to the after-school special dialogue and the movie of the week premise to it.  Plus, a book doesn't get read almost fifty-six years later and stay completely current.  The changing narrative between John and Lorraine was a fairly seamless trade-off and their specific personalities were very believable.  If I had read this as a teenager, or a younger kid, I'd probably sympathize most with John and Lorraine.  But now, somewhere in the middle of my twenties, I'm able to see both sides of the coin.  The behavior of the two of them, including it's destructive trend towards Mr. Pignati, isn't okay even when he seems to be encouraging it.  As a teenager from a screwed up family life though, I can understand having issues with limits when no one around you is setting them in ways that make sense, or is giving you what you need to not be a nutcase or juvenile delinquent.
     John's parents are uptight, and from an older generation (I think he said his Dad is in his early sixties?) and he's constantly being compared to his perfect older brother.  Combine that with a creative, intelligent mind and overabundance of imagination and it equals trouble!  Lorraine's Mom is a man-hating bitch, who basically let her own bad relationships sour her on the whole gender.  She's become bitter, steals from her home healthcare clients, and works Lorraine like a servant - while constantly telling her how ugly she is and overall useless.  So, yeah, not completely casting stones, but they know what they're doing isn't right either.  Lorraine talks about omens throughout her narrative and Zindel makes use of foreshadowing with the detioriorating health of the baboon, Bobo, that Mr. Pignati visits at the zoo (i.e. old, broken down like him, etc.) and as a reader you can see it coming.  The ending wasn't any real shock.  Overall a book that makes you think, but the humor was my favorite part.  The whole first chapter where John talks about his stint as the Bathroom Bomber of his freshmen class was pure gold!

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

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