The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald

MacDonaldTheEggAndINarrator: Heather Henderson

Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press Inc. (2015)

Length: 9 hours

Author’s Page

The Egg and I is a mostly autobiographical account about Betty MacDonald’s time on a chicken farm in the late 1920s in Washington state. Filled with humor, there’s plenty of odd characters, hardships to over come, new foods to be explored, and eggs to be gathered, cleaned, and packaged for sale.

The story starts off with a brief, but laughter-inducing, account of Betty’s school years leading up to her whirlwind romance with Bob, their marriage, and then moving to the Pacific Northwest in search of heaven – a chicken farm of their own! Betty isn’t your typical heroine with perfect hair and stylish figure. Nope, she’s like all the rest of us. She was considered rather too tall for the times, being 5 ft 9 in. I like that she had a belly and rough hands and messy hair. In many ways she’s a very practical person, but she’s still a city girl moving to the country, so there’s plenty for her to learn.

There is one big negative to this book, which was typical of the time period (this book was originally published in 1945): racist remarks towards Native Americans. At the time, such remarks were common and considered accurate. Thankfully, our society as a whole has grown and such remarks today would not sit well with me at all. In truth, even in a historical perspective, these remarks make me a bit angry. However, I am glad that the publisher decided to keep the book as it was originally written instead of washing out these remarks, maintaining the historical accuracy of views at that time, and showing that people of every ethnicity, including the author, are flawed.

OK, so now that that is out of the way, there’s plenty I enjoyed about this book. First, this story spoke to me in many ways. My husband and I some years ago left city life for rural living and had a little farm. We had to go through many of the same learning curves as Betty – starting a fire every day in winter to heat the house, irrigation, gardening, chickens, plowing with equines, stray dogs getting into our property, etc. While we have indoor plumbing, it’s not too hard to picture Betty briskly walking out to the outhouse on a crisp autumn morning.

The Pacific Northwest, and several places named in this book, hold a special place in my heart. Having family in Port Angeles and Seattle, we have visited the area many times. So it was a real treat to see these places through Betty’s eyes in the late 1920s when things were really rugged. She talks of all the edible local foods including the Dungeness crabs and the geoduck clams. Having a chicken farm, they were never short of eggs, so she learned to add an extra egg or two to any recipe that called for eggs, and to a few recipes that did not.

Ma and Pa Kettle feature prominently in the story, being some of the closest neighbors to the isolated chicken farm. There’s also the Hicks, who are eccentric in other ways. I think anyone who moves to the country will find a bevvy of interesting characters in the area and Betty doesn’t skimp on telling how odd her neighbors are. Also, Betty told amusing tales about the animals on the farm, her husband Bob, and inanimate objects, like the wood-burning kitchen stove. She doesn’t leave herself out of this well-meaning, laughter-inducing critique either. There’s plenty of chuckles to go around.

It being a chicken farm, we have to talk about the chickens. Since Bob was often working away from the farm during the day, Betty was the main care-taker of all the beasties. I love her descriptions of all the loving labor she, and sometimes Bob, put into caring for these birds. There’s the daily cleaning of their houses, maintaining the fences around their yards, putting together their feed, tending to the chicks (which far too easily succumb to death), gathering the eggs, and regularly culling the flock. She very accurately describes how with any other beast, such care would be returned with affection. Not so with the chicken! So true, and I say that from a place of love for chickens.

While Betty often jokes, she also usually tells it like it is. I hope others enjoy this classic as much as I do.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Heather Henderson did a great job with this book. I love how she carries the humor, telling it with a sense of irony where needed. She has a unique voice for each character and her male voices are quite believable.

What I Liked: Plenty of humor; city folk moving to the country; the hardships of country living; the realities of chicken farming; the sheer amount of work that goes into living without indoor plumbing; more humor; great narration. 

What I Disliked: There are broad-stroke negative remarks about Native Americans.

What Others Think:

Mother Daughter Book Club

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