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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:


Rural Noir

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.


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