If you wish to join the Book Club, please drop a line in the comments section below. The dates of the Book Club meetings are listed in Upcoming Events in the side panel. The selected books are posted on this website a month in advance of the next meeting.
Barn 8 by Deb Olin Unferth
One disaffected administrator, one disenchanted teenager, four hundred and twenty-one vegan extremists, sixty trucks, and nine hundred thousand grumpy layer hens awaiting liberation. In barns. Six barns. No, wait, seven. No, wait …
Two auditors for the US egg industry conceive a plot to liberate an entire egg farm’s worth of animals, with catastrophic results. This wildly inventive but utterly plausible novel about a heist of a very unusual kind swirls with a rich array of voices: a farmer’s daughter, hundreds of activists, a forest ranger who stumbles upon forty thousand hens, and a security guard abandoned for years on a farm. We glimpse the evolution of chickens twenty thousand years from now. We hear what hens think happens when they die.
And at the heart of this more-than-plucky novel lies the question: what constitutes meaningful action in a world so in need of change? With towering ingenuity, eviscerating wit, and unflappable passion, Barn 8 is a true rare breed, a comic-political drama, and a tour de force for our time.
Buy it here to support independent bookshops.
This book will be discussed at our March 2021 meeting.
Amanda Read’s Review:
Janey’s mother confesses she has lied about her daughter’s conception. Janey runs away to live with the father she never knew she had. She meets Cleveland and together they hatch a plot to break out nearly a million layer hens from a battery chicken farm.
Barn 8 is ambitious in form and in its non-linear, millenia-spanning timeline. The novel comments on the state of intensive poultry production in the US, and the consequences of action and inaction.
The presentation of Barn 8 is superb: a striking cover by Kimberley Glyder; a title harking back to Slaughterhouse 5 and Catch 22 (the author has said this was unintentional, but it works); and a catchy back cover blurb.
The parenthetical remarks draw the reader from the text and come across as authorial knowing winks.
Lacks tension. Flat characterisation.