Barn 8 by Deb Olin Unferth

I am not exactly sure how to go about explaining my feelings on this book. There were parts that I loved and parts that I was “ehhh” about. Overall, I do not regret reading it and there were some very memorable moments.

I love birds so I was definitely drawn to the book because of it. It’s fiction, but the author researched both chickens and egg farming in order to accurately portray what occurs. In this novel, two U.S egg industry auditors decide to free one million chickens from an egg farm. Of course they can’t do it alone, so they recruit a bunch of people: including burned out agricultural investigators, vegans, and an ex-lover. It turns out to be way too many people and chaos ensues.

Moving in a line along the fence, they looked like emissaries from another planet with their thin heads and round eyes, their inexpressive faces, yet clearly on a mission of friendship. Neither side had quite figured out how to communicate beyond pleasantries, but here they all were, together. When they finally caught up to Dill, he said, “Well, what do you want?” They gathered around him and looked out over the fields.

It takes a while to build up to the actual moment that the chickens are taken from the farm, but the author uses that time well. She works on building the characters and setting the scene for what is a pretty quick descent into the chaos that I mentioned earlier. The eventual crime is over pretty quickly, but there are a lot of moments that I was not expecting that really excited me and pushed me to keep reading. Learning why the title of a book was chosen is one of my favorite parts of reading: this book did not disappoint me in that regards. I don’t want to ruin the meaning behind it so I won’t go into details, but it is interesting and worth learning about.

Here’s a question: Who cares? It’s just a bunch of stupid chickens.

But chickens did not always have the reputation of being dirty, ugly, and dumb, a practical version of the pigeon. That’s a uniquely twentieth-century construction. Roosters, of course, were warriors and leaders since the earliest images of them on the pharaohs’ walls in Egypt. Hens were devoted mothers, teachers, and nurturers — in India, China, the Mediterranean.

In the end I was entertained enough to want to write about this book on my blog. Although I wasn’t the biggest fan, I do think that the author is unique, smart, and knows how to infuse a lot of heart into a book that seems like it could be just a bunch of fluff, but turns out to be a statement about the relationship between humans and animals that we all encounter at some point in our lives.

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