Meet Gloria, Gam Gam, Darkness, Miss Hennepin County, and their unlikely owner. 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 freezing nights of a brutal 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.
Thank you firstly to the publisher for sending me this proof copy of the book.
An interesting and orignal book that I considered not writing a review about, not because I didn’t like it but just because it felt difficult to comment on, to put my thoughts into words.
A relatively short read, detailing a year in the life of our unnamed narrator; a woman married to Percy and caring for 4 chickens; Gloria, Gam Gam, Darkness and Miss Hennepin County. 4 unique central characters in this story along with their owner. The narrator cares deeply for these chickens, mothers them and it is no coincidence that we learn of a traumatic miscarriage early in the book. So this book is about mothering, mothering of chickens and about loss and about a change of expectations.
The narrator is married to Percy who we know is seeking a job in academia which would mean a house move to a town that does not issue licences to keep chickens. There is a sense of grief here as plans are made to rehouse the chickens and this feels painful to our narrator. Other than this Percy is largely absent although appears supportive towards our narrator and significant. The writing felt distant and so the emotion was not always obvious and was often nuanced.
This is a quiet book and I think to fully appreciate it, it requires time and attention. I do wonder if I will read it again because while it was readable and fine, I think a rereading would reveal much more. The writing was ‘loose’ I think or maybe I wasn’t concentrating enough but much was not said, the use of metaphors and nuance played a big part here and I think could easily be missed.
This is a big debut publication for Picador and I suspect it will be a book that will appeal to many and receive high praise. I am left feeling a little mixed about it, I don’t think it quite hit the mark for me in the same way that Hot Milk by Deborah Levy didn’t. I prefer a more character or plot driven novel although in Brood I am intrigued enough to think I may read again, at a time when I have more space than I do right now.
If you enjoy literary fiction, words which flow but are perhaps somewhat abstract, where time is a little fluid but the thoughts and feelings are at the heart then I think this a book you will enjoy. I will watch with interest because I am certain there is more to this book than I got and I am intrigued. If you read it, please do give me a shout and let me know what you thought.
About the Author
Jackie Polin lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with her husband and children. Brood is her first novel.