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The Egg and I
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The Egg and I

3.8 13
by Betty MacDonald

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When Betty MacDonald married a marine and moved to a small chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, she was largely unprepared for the rigors of life in the wild. With no running water, no electricity, a house in need of constant repair, and days that ran from four in the morning to nine at night, the MacDonalds had barely a moment to put their


When Betty MacDonald married a marine and moved to a small chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, she was largely unprepared for the rigors of life in the wild. With no running water, no electricity, a house in need of constant repair, and days that ran from four in the morning to nine at night, the MacDonalds had barely a moment to put their feet up and relax. And then came the children. Yet through every trial and pitfall—through chaos and catastrophe—this indomitable family somehow, mercifully, never lost its sense of humor.

A beloved literary treasure for more than half a century, Betty MacDonald's The Egg and I is a heartwarming and uproarious account of adventure and survival on an American frontier.

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HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial
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Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.64(d)

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The Egg and I

By Betty MacDonald
Harper Paperbacks
Copyright © 1987

Betty MacDonald
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-06-091428-8

Chapter One And I'll Be Happy

Along with teaching us that lamb must be cooked with garlic and that a lady never scratches her head or spits, my mother taught my sisters and me that it is a wife's bounden duty to see that her husband is happy in his work. "First make sure that your husband is doing the kind of work he enjoys and is best fitted for and then cheerfully accept whatever it entails. If you marry a doctor, don't whine because he doesn't keep the hours of a shoe clerk, and by the same token if you marry a shoe clerk, don't complain because he doesn't make as much money as a doctor. Be satisfied that he works regular hours," Mother told us.

According to Mother, if your husband wants to give up the banking business and polish agates for a living, let him. Help him with his agate polishing. Learn to know and to love agates (and incidentally to eat them).

"It is depressing enough for a man to know that he has to work the rest of his life without the added burden of knowing that it will be work he hates. Too many potentially great men are eating their hearts out in dull jobs because of selfish wives." And Mother had examples too. There was the Fuller Brush man who came to our house once a month and told Mother how deliriously happy he used to be raising Siberian wolves and playing the violin with a symphony orchestra until he ran afoul of and married Myrtle. The man in the A & P vegetable department who was lilting through life as a veterinary surgeon until he married a woman who hated animals but loved vegetables. And the numerous mining men Mother and Daddy knew who were held down to uninspiring company jobs by wives who wouldn't face the financial insecurity of their husbands going into business for themselves.

"Boy," we said, "when we get married, our husbands will do exactly as they please," and they have.

This I'll-go-where-you-go-do-what-you-do-be-what-you-are-and-I'll-be-happy philosophy worked out splendidly for Mother for she followed my mining engineer father all over the United States and led a fascinating life; but not so well for me, because although I did what she told me and let Bob choose the work in which he felt he would be happiest and then plunged wholeheartedly in with him, I wound up on the Pacific Coast in the most untamed corner of the United States, with a ten-gallon keg of good whiskey, some very dirty Indians, and hundreds and hundreds of most uninteresting chickens.

Something was wrong. Either Mother skipped a chapter or there was some great lack in me, because Bob was happy in his work but I was not. I couldn't learn to love or to know chickens or Indians and, instead of enjoying living in that vast wilderness, I kept thinking: Who am I against two and a half million acres of mountains and trees? Perhaps Mother with her flair for pioneering would have enjoyed it. Perhaps.

Where Mother got this pioneer spirit, how she came by it, I do not know, for a thorough search of the family records reveals no Daniel Boones, no wagon trains heading West with brave women slapping at Indians with their sunbonnets. In fact, our family tree appears rife with lethargy, which no doubt accounts for our all living to be eighty-seven or ninety-three.

Mother's ancestors were Dutch. Ten Eyck was their name and they settled in New York in 1613. One of my father's family names was Campbell. The Campbells came to Virginia from Scotland. They were all nice well-bred people but not daring or adventuresome except for "Gammy," my father's mother, who wore her corsets upside down and her shoes on the wrong feet and married a gambler with yellow eyes. The gambler, James Bard of Bardstown, Kentucky, took his wife out West, played Faro with his money, his wife's money and even some of his company's money and then tactfully disappeared and was always spoken of as dead.

We never saw this grandfather but he influenced our lives whether he knew it or not, because Gammy was a strong believer in heredity, particularly the inheritance of bad traits, and she watched us like hawks when we were children to see if the "taint" was coming out in any of us. She hammered on my father to such an extent about his gambling blood that he would not allow us children to play cards in any form, not even Slap Jack or Old Maid, and though Mother finally forced him to learn to play double Canfield, he died without ever having played a hand of bridge, a feat which I envy heartily.


Excerpted from The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald Copyright © 1987 by Betty MacDonald. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

A longtime resident of Washington State, Betty MacDonald (1908-1958) authored four humorous, autobiographical bestsellers and several children's books, including the popular Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books.

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Egg and I 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Betty MacDonald has captured life in the rural area of NW Washington as nobody has since. Laugh with her, cry with her. She was a real person living in NW WA and every bone in her body went into writing this book. If you have not experienced Washington in the in this time and place, this is the book - the descriptions will make your mouth water for a rural life.
AliTheDragonSlayer More than 1 year ago
I have always been fascinated by the 1940’s especially living ‘on the land’ and being fairly self sufficient. My parents had a chicken/egg business when I was a child and I have many happy memories of ‘collecting’ the eggs. However I live in the UK and I certainly wasn’t around in the 1940’s so that is where the similarities end! Betty married and blindly followed her husband off to the bleak mountains in Washington state to follow his dream of owning a chicken ranch. This is her story told exactly how she lived it .. non-politically correct and with moments of what would be described these days as racism. Any thought that it would be an easy existence rapidly disappeared as we hear about her struggling to light the stove, forgetting the kerosene, living by candlelight, scrubbing the laundry by hand, ironing with an old flat iron warmed briefly on aforementioned stove. Carrying buckets of water, walking 5 or more miles to her nearest neighbours not to mention the act of caring for the chickens!! Their days would begin at 4am, cold, dark and monotonous. But Betty did as her husband told her. I enjoyed her descriptions of learning to sew and making anything crafty, she wasn’t naturally talented. She adored reading but books were not easy to come by. This is a wonderful portrayal of their life but remember it was a LONG time ago and some of the issues may be sensitive but it’s as it was. Betty was very scathing of a lot of people around her, there are some fabulously humorous parts but I’m not sure her humour was appreciated by all. If you are of a delicate disposition then possibly some of the references to how the chicken industry works is not ideal. I was lucky enough to gain an audio copy of this and it made for very engrossing listening. The narration was spot on, I felt as though I was there shivering in that kitchen having a cup of coffee. When I started and realised it was about 9 hours long I thought it would take forever to hear it all when in fact I think I completed it in about 3 sessions because I was enthralled. I would happily listen to more stories by Betty.
lv2rdTK More than 1 year ago
So different from the movie, really enjoyed both.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am an avid reader and have been since I learned how. This is a marvellously funny, and heartwarming story of life from Butte, Montana to Seattle Washington. I've read this book numerous times and continue to buy new copies to give as gifts.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Warning do not read while drinking beverage. I was readin this book in the car on a trip and was laughing so hard i choked on my coke. its one of the best books ever writen...trust me read it!
Anonymous 5 months ago
Good book but i don't know why anybody wpuld want to live in the country. Too much work, plus you are at the mercy of mother naature.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Wonderful & so full of humor.
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Anonymous 11 months ago
Did not enjoy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book might has been funny when it was first published. However, I found it very dated and not funny at all. The book has bigotry and a sadistic attitude towards women. Sorry I had to read it for book club. Would not recommend. The movie is much better.