Summary and book reviews of Brood by Jackie Polzin

Brood

by Jackie Polzin

Brood by Jackie Polzin X
Brood by Jackie Polzin
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Mar 2021, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book

Book Summary

An exquisite new literary voice - wryly funny, nakedly honest, beautifully observational, in the vein of Jenny Offill and Elizabeth Strout - depicts one woman's attempt to keep her four chickens alive while reflecting on a recent loss.

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.

A stunning and brilliantly insightful meditation on life and longing that will stand beside such modern classics as H is for Hawk and Gilead, Brood rewards its readers with the richness of reflection and unrelenting hope.

Excerpt
Brood

The timer ticks away in the chicken shed. Each tick is bound to a counter-tick, like the one-two of a maraca, and behind that noise and counter-noise exists a faint buzzing of the electronics. The timer is programmed to turn on the heat lamp at 06:00, 12:00, 18:00, and 24:00. The coldest hour of the night is the last hour of complete darkness, but the lamp does not turn on at that hour. By six o'clock in the morning, the temperature has already begun to creep upward to its still frozen high. The chickens get by on thirty minutes of warm light every sixth hour because every moment of light increases the risk of fire in the coop. Helen has asked how we keep the chickens warm and I told her, "We have a heat lamp in the winter." I did not tell her the light shines for only one half hour every sixth hour and the first ten minutes of that warmth in the form of infrared light is absorbed by the frost caked on the hanging bulb. I do not want Helen to lose sleep over our chickens....

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

There is a bittersweet tone to this short work. It's not for those who need a lot of plot, or who don't like the feeling that information is being withheld; events have surface meaning, and could also be interpreted allegorically, but ultimately, it surprised me to what extent the book really is about chickens. Early on, I felt impatient to move on and learn more about the narrator. But that's not the kind of novel this is; it's no tell-all. Rather, it's a low-key, genuine portrait of life in the in-between stages and how it can be affected by fate or by other people's decisions...continued

Full Review Members Only (825 words).

(Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Media Reviews

New York Times
[A] wonderfully written first novel, full of nuance and humor and strangeness...Polzin’s story will be meaningful to many people for many reasons. It is companionable, cozy, smart and empathetic...It’s a wonderful book, truly.

Kirkus Reviews
Calling to mind the cerebral works of Olivia Laing and Jenny Offill, Polzin's story has a quiet intensity that churns throughout...In Polzin's deft hands, the mundane is an endless source of wonder. A moving meditation on loss, solitude, and the hope that can rise from both.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[W]itty and profound...The narrative is full of such sharp, distinctive observations as the narrator works to move on from her desire to have children. Told in short vignettes studded with breath-catching wisdom, this novel feels both delicate and sustaining from beginning to end.

Author Blurb Claire Lombardo, bestselling author of The Most Fun We Ever Had
Oh, did I love this book and its magnificent cast of characters—human and avian alike. Brood is the most vibrant and compelling slice of life I've been privy to in a great while—it's generous, original, and witty, an absolute treasure of a novel.

Author Blurb Emily Ruskovich, author of Idaho
I have never read a book like this one. So much is unsaid, and that is where the true beauty of this novel lies, between the lines, even as the lines themselves sing. Written with such delicacy, such elegance, the prose made me feel that the narrator has opened her heart to me, even as she withholds so much. This was a book about everything—joy and love and beauty and loss. Marriage and motherhood and friendship and grief. All brought to life through the story of a little backyard flock. I was surprised at every turn, moved to laughter and tears both—I could not put it down.

Author Blurb Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
This is the most wonderful book! Acutely observed and flawlessly conveyed. Completely original, full of surprise, humor, grief, and wisdom and just the right amount of chickens. I am hugely on board with Brood.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Q&A with Jackie Polzin

Jackie Polzin Jackie Polzin talks about her debut novel, Brood, and how her own experience caring for chickens contributed to it.

First of all, why chickens?

When I was 30, my partner and I got chickens. They were my first pets since childhood. I compensated by giving them a lot of attention, and that attention inspired the book. I knew I could spend time with the ideas the chickens provoked. Some broad ones: that a chicken's egg-heavy existence seldom bears new life; that a chicken is a pet whose value is complicated by its utility, often thought of as less-than when it stops laying eggs; that caring for a chicken yields very little emotional feedback. These ideas aren't stated directly but they're part of the story and quite specific to ...

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