Tag Archives: women’s fiction

Brood, by Jackie Polzin

Hanging out with chickens brings the fundamentals into focus. Death, birth, grief, loss, and our communal nature comprise theme as well as substance of Jackie Polzin’s meandering narrative.

It was the pairing of miscarriage and poultry that prompted me to peruse Brood. At the outset of this short novel, the unnamed protagonist has been caring for her flock of backyard chickens for four years. Accounts of subzero Minnesota winters, poultry trivia, run-ins with neighbors, friends ignorant of eggs and their ways, and the narrator’s professional house cleaning eventually reveal the miscarriage six years in her past.

I came to chicken keeping in 2009 with purely utilitarian interests. A neighbor proposed a partnership, whereby our family would house the chickens in our existing but uninhabited dog run. Both households would share the labor, expense, and eggs. I readily agreed, but, ambivalent toward animals and allergic to most, I was up front: I was in it only for the eggs. 

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The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery

As a teen I read and re-read the Anne of Green Gables series, puzzled over the brooding Emily of New Moon trilogy, and rejoiced upon discovering Along the Shore and Chronicles of Avonlea–more L.M. Montgomery to be read. When Wonderworks released the definitive three-hour Anne movies in the 1980s, my high school friends and I reveled in Anne teas and Anne sleepovers, swooning over Gilbert and worshiping at the feet of Meghan Follows.

How, in all this Avonlea infatuation, I never stumbled across The Blue Castle is a mystery as deep as Barry’s pond–admittedly shallow, as bodies of water go. Likely my fixation limited my vision to works concerning she of Green Gables. But in the end I came to Montgomery’s 1926 novel (published five years after the last–known–Anne installment) at just the right time. My fifty-first January proved an ideal season for The Blue Castle’s mix of melancholy, mystery, unexpected romance, and reverence for nature in all its seasons.

At twenty-nine, Valancy Stirling still lives with her mother and the aptly named Cousin Stickles. Valancy holds to the unshakable belief that, not only is she unloved by any of her tribe of dour relations (mother included), she has never truly lived.

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Little Hours, by Lil Copan

I found this epistolary novel through the Christianity Today 2022 book awards, where it received honorable mention for fiction. The glowing reviews on Amazon countered my usual reluctance to order a book sight unseen. As a very casual birdwatcher (and keeper of pigeons), the idea of bird-watching nuns intrigued me. As the author of an unpublished epistolary novel, the format hooked me. And references to coffee, cancer, and marriage reeled me in.

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