Book Review: Brood by Jackie Polzin

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Publish Date: March 9, 2021

Simple truths govern the care of chickens. Also, the chickens must not freeze to death, although it is unclear at what temperature this would occur.” – Brood

Chickens 1

Over the course of a single year, our nameless narrator heroically tries to keep her small brood of four chickens alive despite the seemingly endless challenges that caring for another creature entails. From the forty-below nights of a brutal Minnesota winter to a sweltering summer which brings a surprise tornado, she battles predators, bad luck, and the uncertainty of a future that may not look anything like the one she always imagined.

Intimate and startlingly original, this slender novel is filled with wisdom, sorrow and joy. As the year unfolds, we come to know the small band of loved ones who comprise the narrator’s circumscribed life at this moment. Her mother, a flinty former home-ec teacher who may have to take over the chickens; her best friend, a real estate agent with a burgeoning family of her own; and her husband whose own coping mechanisms for dealing with the miscarriage that haunts his wife are more than a little unfathomable to her.

Chickens 2

Brood is a quick, easy read that is insightful and compelling. On the surface, this is a book about a woman living in Minnesota caring for a small flock of 4 chickens and cleaning houses. But, it is so much more than that; it’s about sorrow, reflection, grief, survival, and acceptance.

Brood is about things you can control, and things you can’t control like miscarriages and the weather. It’s about a flock, a sense of family, constant change, and coping.

Our main character has 4 hens: Gloria, Darkness, Miss Hennepin County, and Gam Gam. I love chicken names, because they are so random and you never know what is going to stick. The breeds, like our protagonist, are not named. I loved reading about them. I even learned a few things that I didn’t know about chickens. And I was sad about their demise.

My favorite quotes:

“I had thought caring for chickens would be a transferrable skill, would, at the very least, extend to the ilk of the hobby farm, but my experience with chickens has been the opposite. The more I care for them, the less I know.”

“You can’t keep a bird from singing, and it follows that you can’t keep a chicken from sounding like a chicken does.”

“When the relief from the thing is the thing itself.”

“The modern chicken is perfectly suited to the life it leads.”

“A house falls apart. This is never more apparent than when a house must be sold, but it is not more true at this point than any other.”

Short, sweet, and not very happy. If you’re looking for a feel good book, this one is not for you, but it’s poignant, reflective and a solid, quick read about the human spirit and the not-so-secret lives of chickens.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars 3 Stars

Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley exchange for an honest review.

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