Sy Montgomery makes ?The Good Good Pig? fly
Sy Montgomery is crazy about animals. She?s stalked man-eating tigers in India, cavorted with legendary pink dolphins in the Amazon, and been emotionally restored by the touch of giant spiders. That?s just the tip of the fauna-packed iceberg floating through Montgomery?s incredible life. But in The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood, this naturalist and animal lover introduces us not to some exotic, sought-after species but to her very own 750-pound pet pig. It?s the warm, winning biography of a hog. It will make you laugh out loud, relish the pets in your life, and get a pig-sized lump in your throat. (Finishing it in an airport terminal, I had to choke back tears to preserve my considerable masculinity in the eyes of my fellow travelers.)
Montgomery and her husband, author Howard Mansfield, adopted a small, sick runt of a pig at a time in their lives when loss and grief were bearing down on them. Montgomery?s beloved father was dying of cancer. Writing what was to become Walking with the Great Apes, she was struggling with writer?s block. And they were also facing the loss of their cherished home. Despite these struggles, the couple rescued a diseased piglet, named him Christopher Hogwood (after the symphony conductor), and nursed him back to health. However, Chris was not ever destined to be dinner. Mansfield is Jewish and Montgomery is vegetarian, so this lucky pig?one among tens of millions?was forever spared the supper table.
What?s for dinner? Not this ?other white meat?! Instead, Chris lives for dinner. He gulps and gorges and gobbles his way through this book. He grows from a runt into a 14-year-old, 750-pound porcine celebrity (of sorts). While he?s grunting and noshing, he?s also a blessing and best friend to Montgomery and the herd of humans who come to adore him. Montgomery relates with wry wit and unabashed glee the gargantuan personality of her giant pal. Her writing is warm and approachable. She describes Christopher as others might relate a fond family member. In the end, she not only gives to readers the story of the life and times of Christopher Hogwood?a pig who changes lives and captures the minds of his entire community?but she opens up her own life and heart in these pages.
And Sy Montgomery has a big, beautiful heart. It beats in her words, pulses in the scenes she presents, and infuses this small book with a grand, invigorating, inspiring sense of life. Consider only one of her encounters with Chris. After unwittingly feeding Mr. Hogwood a bucket of tomato sauce (which, she discovers, is too acidic for pigs), she finds him lying on his side on the barn floor, incredibly ill. He is bloated. He won?t eat. He can?t get up. So Montgomery drops all other concerns and becomes an instant nurse, spending days ministering to her pig. She even curls up behind him and spoons him on the straw-strewn floor of the freezing barn. Her husband covers her with a blanket, and she spends the night with her (comparatively) tiny arms around her massive pet.
This scene epitomizes The Good Good Pig. With care and in one beautifully presented moment after another, Sy Montgomery embraces her pig, her friends, and her readers. I finished this book with the sense that I?d not only been privileged to glimpse the unusual, oversized, and sometimes outlandish life of someone who happened to be a hog, but that I was able to appreciate his story more because it was seen and remembered through the eyes of a truly remarkable person. Not since Babe?s Farmer Hoggett has there been such a champion of all things porcine. And in the spirit of Babe, this book will leave you wanting to say, ?That?ll do, pig. That?ll do.?