Joey Hedger’s Deliver Thy Pigs follows the journey of Marco Polo Woodridge in the aftermath of his father's death in a devastating factory accident. With an unrelenting desire for vengeance, he sets out to protest the factory and its manager through escalating moves. With satire, pathos, and a bit of Midwestern charm, the author casts a clear light on what yearning for "the American dream" can get you. The novel, which probes loss, vengeance, and community, is a gritty must-read.
To learn more about the story behind the story, read A Good Book To End The Day’s interview with the author below.
Tell us about Deliver Thy Pigs and the inspiration behind the story.
Contrary to its title, Deliver Thy Pigs is not about pigs. Yeah, there are pigs here and there in the book, but I’d say it’s much more of a story about community. Prior to writing this novel, I had been thinking about coal towns, where you’ve got entire communities built around one specific industry that sort of controls everything. People rely on it for jobs, for community, for culture. So when it gets taken away, everybody is devastated, because of how it has fed and controlled the community. But it’s also dangerous, both environmentally and in terms of the health and wellbeing of the miners. What does a victory look like, then, if you want to make things better? I wanted to explore that idea of industry versus environment. But I also wanted to create an Illinois version of that, so I came up with a pork factory and the small, fictional meat-loving town outside Chicago upon which it relies.
My story is also about personal loss. The protagonist, Marco Polo Woodridge, is grieving the loss of his father, who died in an accident while working at the meat factory. And he spends much of his free time enacting small vandalistic acts of revenge against the factory and its callus manager Dave Hughes, whom he faults for the accident. That’s where family friend Susan Banks and her daughter Margaret come in. Upset over how the local land has been affected, they team up with Marco Polo to get more organized and start exercising acts of protest against the factory, which lead to resulting escalating retaliations.
I wanted my book to be playful yet touch on themes I found interesting like rebuilding family, environmentalism, anti-capitalism, and loving or hating your hometown, so the back-and-forth conflict between the factory and the main characters felt like a good place to begin.
How would describe your book’s ideal reader?
An angsty Midwesterner, probably. Also, anyone who’s passionate about native trees in Illinois or who wants to have a few chuckles as they contemplate life, death, and feeling stuck.
How do you celebrate when you finish a book?
Unfortunately, I don’t finish books very often. But I tend to get cozy and stop writing for a while after finishing something big, as I did with this book. Probably a bad habit, but it’s nice to take a break from that internal pressure to keep writing more, and more, and more. Which is probably why I don’t finish books very often.
What does literary success look like to you?
For me, literary success looks like community building. Even though I’d love to get huge book deals and sell tons of copies, the parts of writing that really bring me continued satisfaction are the times when other writers and readers have connected with me based on something I’ve written. The fictional town in my story constantly smells awful due to the slaughterhouse, so when Deliver Thy Pigs came out in April, a number of people (partly upon request) told me all sorts of stories about how their hometowns smelled or what it was like to grow up near dog food or detergent factories. Someone also approached me to dish out the drama surrounding a nearby slaughterhouse that constantly violates health codes and is the center of an ongoing neighborhood conflict. Supposedly, there’s always chicken feathers scattered across the block just blowing around in the wind. I love those stories. I wrote this book about stinky towns and slaughterhouses because I found those topics interesting. If my writing can help bring out other people’s weird stories, too? That’s success to me.
What is the one book that you think everyone should read?
The Visiting Privilege, by Joy Williams
Do you have any other projects in the works at this time?
Keep an eye out for some stories coming out in a few different places. I’m also working on a story collection about Florida, where each story takes place in a point in time along the state’s gradual “sinking” into the ocean. I grew up in Florida and find it vastly interesting, especially how everybody there simultaneously worships its natural beauty, especially along the beaches and coasts, yet are constantly hard at work destroying it. The idea of what it looks like as the landscape disappears is interesting to me.
How can readers keep in touch with you?