An unforgettably exuberant and potent novel by a writer at the height of her powers
Two auditors for the U.S. egg industry go rogue and conceive a plot to steal a million chickens in the middle of the night--an entire egg farm's worth of animals. Janey and Cleveland--a spirited former runaway and the officious head of audits--assemble a precarious, quarrelsome team and descend on the farm on a dark spring evening. A series of catastrophes ensues.
Deb Olin Unferth's wildly inventive novel is a heist story of a very unusual sort. Swirling with a rich array of voices, Barn 8 takes readers into the minds of these renegades: a farmer's daughter, a former director of undercover investigations, hundreds of activists, a forest ranger who suddenly comes upon forty thousand hens, and a security guard who is left on an empty farm for years. There are glimpses twenty thousand years into the future to see what chickens might evolve into on our contaminated planet. We hear what hens think happens when they die. In the end the cracked hearts of these indelible characters, their earnest efforts to heal themselves, and their radical actions will lead them to ruin or revelation.
Funny, whimsical, philosophical, and heartbreaking, Barn 8 ultimately asks: What constitutes meaningful action in a world so in need of change? Unferth comes at this question with striking ingenuity, razor-sharp wit, and ferocious passion. Barn 8 is a rare comic-political drama, a tour de force for our time.
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About the AuthorDeb Olin Unferth is the author of six books. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and three Pushcart Prizes, and was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. Her work has appeared in Granta, Harper's Magazine, McSweeney's, and The Paris Review.
"Unferth's gift as a short story writer is evidenced in this novel. . . . Within moments of being introduced to [her] characters, we know them intimately, care about them deeply. . . . The thorough research Unferth must have done on the historical, cultural and agricultural aspects of hens and roosters is woven naturally throughout the text, and many of these characters are motivated to take action for the sake of these animals' rights. Barn 8 is a beautiful, urgent, politically charged book with a huge heart, and while the plot is sometimes madcap, well, so is love."--The New York Times Book Review
"Kaleidoscopic. . . . Unferth's lens, which telescopes through time and space, is unafraid to linger on the bizarre and vicious cycle of birth-death, need-fulfillment and supply-demand that this phantom-run barn universe perpetuates. . . . Yet Unferth never traffics in gratuitous shock. Instead, her sentences and constantly shifting point of view are embroidered with a great deal of unexpected tenderness and optimism."--Los Angeles Times
"Satirical and smart, veering from hilarious comedy to incisive commentary, Barn 8 demands that we reconsider our unexamined lives."--Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
"Framed inside the world of commercial chicken farming (which is a whole thing in itself, both in real life and in the book), the razor-sharp prose and surprisingly heartfelt insight move this book right along into unexpected places. Barn 8 is so weird in the best way, hilarious even as it probes deep into fault lines of capitalist society, politics, and revolution."--Electric Literature
It's a tale that's expansive and passionate and absurd and tender.--Austin Chronicle
"[Unferth is] a wildly creative, sharply insightful, and deeply compassionate writer. . . . Throughout, Unferth's characterizations of humans and chickens alike are warm, funny, and provide deep insight into questions around what it means to be a compassionate human in a world terribly out of ethical and environmental balance."--The Brooklyn Rail
"[Barn 8 is] a powerful book and a dazzling feat of imagination from one of the country's most exciting authors."--Texas Observer
"Funny, sassy, smart, and timely, this novel is a sheer joy to read."--Napa Valley Register
"Ignited by her fiery wit and distinctive voice, Unferth's novel uses one of America's most valuable and overlooked institutions as fertile ground to raise questions around the truths people are fed and the ones they turn a blind eye to. . . . Unferth's writing never feels patronizing--more than anything, it's galvanizing. . . . If this novel isn't a movement, it has enough heart to start one."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"In this outrageous piece of rural noir and pitch-perfect characterization, Unferth recalls Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang with a dose of vegan-minded quirk. This entertaining, satisfying genre turn shows off Unferth's range, and readers will be delighted by the characters' earnest crusade."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
"A daring writer of wit, imagination, and conscience, Unferth has transformed her foray into hen hell into an adroitly narrated, fast-paced, yet complexly dimensional novel about emotional and environmental devastation. . . . Unferth sharply illuminates the contrariness of human nature, celebrates the evolutionary marvels of chickens, and exposes the horrors of the egg industry. . . . [A] vividly provoking and revelatory work of ecofiction spiked with mordant humor and powered by love."--Booklist, starred review
"Barn 8 is a novel like no other: An urgent moral fantasia, a post-human parable, a tender portrait of animal dignity and genius."--Dana Spiotta
"Deb Unferth's hilarious, off-kilter genius is on dazzling display in this novel. Come for the brilliant insights about our faltering civilization. Stay for the revolutionaries and the chickens. You are really really going to love these chickens . . ."--Jenny Offill
"Like Flannery O'Connor, Deb Olin Unferth does things entirely her own way, and that way is impossible to describe. . . . This very funny and absurd novel is also as serious as the world."--Zachary Lazar
"I leap to read anything Deb Olin Unferth writes, and her latest book, Barn 8, is further proof of her singular talent, her gigantic heart. While Unferth's characters try to save hens, her miracle of a novel might, in turn, save you."--R.O. Kwon