The manner in which the current pandemic began is now notorious. The coronavirus leapt from animal to man. As a result, when staring into the abyss of one’s tangled thoughts during the lockdown, it is easy for the mind to wander over to our fraught relationship with other creatures. This mental journey is even easier if Deb Olin Unferth’s tragicomic ecoterrorism novel Barn 8 is your companion at home.
The animal at the heart of this book is neither bat nor pangolin but the humble hen. In Barn 8, and in general, hens are valued only as a means of producing their own vehicle into the world, the egg. The egg is deemed ‘the perfect unit of nutrition’, bursting with miscellaneous goodness. Eggs are omnipresent in the foods we eat: in batter, bread, spreads, sauces, sandwiches, snacks and chocolate, to name but a few.
Janey is fifteen years and five days old when she flees New York for Iowa to live with her father, whose existence she discovered only five days before. Despite having to come to terms with the sickening realisation that he knew about her and never sought her out, Janey stays,