Helen Peppe’s ‘Pigs Can’t Swim’ Inspires

It’s a wonder she made it out of childhood in one piece. And with a brilliant attitude to boot.

Those were my first thoughts, coming with a nervous chuckle, after reading Helen Peppe’s Pigs Can’t Swim: A Memoir.

There are scenes of frigid winter trudges, of endless sibling taunts, of lonely, seat-of-her-pants learning.

In Peppe’s childhood, hunger and confusion mix readily with mud and manure. And nearly everything seems to happen helenwhile barefooted, even the riding.

Those riding moments will resonate with us horse lovers. In Chapter 16, she writes of solo rides with a free-leased mare, Dakota:

“I felt the grip of home loosen. I began to feel something I can describe only as possibility, a release in my chest that made me breathe more deeply and fully.”

In my mind, Peppe achieved the near-impossible with this thoughtful memoir:

  • First, she recalled with vivid detail a fluid stream of memories from girlhood.
  • Second, she manages to do so with a convincing voice and girlish mindset.
  • Third, she knits into her narrative the kind, mature, and forgiving perspective of a woman who has made it through very personal and sometimes traumatic trials of growing up in a big, poor family.
  • Lastly, Peppe seems to encourage and inspire her readers, especially those of us who also grew up in rural Maine, to consider their own childhoods from a new perspective and with greater appreciation and humor.

That’s when books like Pigs Can’t Swim become more than words on pages. They become gifts.

Visit Helen Peppe’s website here.