Teaching Pigs to Sing Paperback – Aug 1997
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Playwright and actor Cordelia Strube's third novel is an unsettling portrayal of life as a single mom in the city. Rita Johnson lives with her six-year-old son, Max, fibroids on her uterus, and battered self-esteem. "She has noticed that generally, if she says little, admirable qualities will be projected onto her. Her mistake has always been to open her mouth." Adding to Rita's tapestry of despair are her Archie Bunker-like father, an MS-stricken mother who also suffers from dementia, an unhappily married sister, and a mentally ill brother. And then there's Max's absentee father, a troubled surgeon damaged by his work in war-torn parts of the world. Rita spends her days writing scripts for industrial videos, battling the mice that have invaded her house, and trying to shield her son from a world she has lost faith in. From car vandals to gun-toting prowlers to juvenile bike thieves, there's a bogeyman behind every bush.
While recovering from an operation Rita meets Edith, a fellow patient who becomes her confidant and friend. Edith's unsophisticated wisdom gives Rita an anchor. But when life takes yet another horrible turn, it threatens to topple Rita from the tightrope she is walking. Rita's hope for salvation lies in finding her own humanity amid the chaos of the world around her. Without ever becoming overwhelmed by the darkness of its tale, Strube's novel documents the extraordinary pressures of modern urban life. --Moe Berg
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
TEACHING PIGS TO SING is a strange, quirky and mesmerizing book. It is the story of thirty-something Rita (a single mom trying to overcome relationship problems) and her six-year-old son, Max.
It's a book about loneliness and uncertainty, peppered with stream-of-consciouness internal dialogue (on Rita's part). Rita struggles to understand and cope with an eclectic group of people in her life - many of them broken in some way by life's injustices. She is also battling her own health issues, all while doing her best to protect her young son for the harsh realities of the world.
The book is dark, no question about it, but it is also believable and heart-wrenching. The irony lies when Max becomes the victim of a violent act, despite Rita's obsession with protecting him. I have to admit that it was hard to continue on with the story after this point, but I was too invested - I had to read through. I'm glad I did. The characters are raw and authentic and I loved the courage and strength of Rita. Strube has also captured the young voice of a child perfectly - Max was my favourite character.
Highly recommend this book, and I'm looking forward to reading more from this author.