In Polzin’s witty and profound debut, an unnamed narrator reflects on her flock of chickens and her dwindling hopes of becoming a mother. As the unnamed narrator and her economist husband, Percy, work to keep their four chickens alive through a year of extreme Minnesota weather, Percy is in the running for a professorship at a university in California. While Percy awaits job news, a move that would necessitate leaving the chickens behind, the narrator processes the loss of a miscarried child. With their odds for having a child growing slim (“I had hoped to outweigh the risks of pregnancy at my age with sheer desire,” the narrator muses), the couple turn their attention to the birds, “an endless source of entertainment and worry.” What astounds is Polzin’s ability to draw such deep understanding of the couple through their interactions with the chickens, which live only in the moment: “Do the chickens think of warmer times? They do not. By the time a snowflake has landed, snowflakes are all a chicken has ever known. Theirs is a world of only snowflakes or only not.” The narrative is full of such sharp, distinctive observations as the narrator works to move on from her desire to have children. Told in short vignettes studded with breath-catching wisdom, this novel feels both delicate and sustaining from beginning to end. Agent: Molly Friedrich, the Friedrich Agency. (Mar.)
Wondrous…Her observation of the fragility and loveliness of daily life is so sharp and her commentary so droll, trenchant and precise, that the modest world she describes becomes almost numinous.”
"A debut novel about chickens? Yes, indeed. And it's full of nuance and humor, not to mention the very human travails of their grieving owner. Polzin has a gift for detail and an eye for the way little creatures can absorb and sometimes erase our worries."
—New York Times Book Review
"The story is acutely observed [with] metaphors of the world at large."
—The New Yorker
“You will love this book…The voice is wry and rare…As with Sigrid Nunez or Jenny Offill, one feels that the narrator of Brood is very close to the author.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Brood, which chronicles a year of grief subsumed through care, abounds in wit, charm, and the very mystery of being."
—Joy Williams, author of The Visiting Privilege
"Darkly funny and poignant, Jackie Polzin’s Brood, a novel about friendship, motherhood, grief, and chickens, is a witty delight."
—Paula Hawkins, author of Into The Water and The Girl on The Train
"Oh, did I love this book and its magnificent cast of characters—human and avian alike. Brood is the most vibrant and compelling slice of life I've been privy to in a great while—it's generous, original, and witty, an absolute treasure of a novel."
—Claire Lombardo, bestselling author of The Most Fun We Ever Had
"I have never read a book like this one. So much is unsaid, and that is where the true beauty of this novel lies, between the lines, even as the lines themselves sing. Written with such delicacy, such elegance, the prose made me feel that the narrator has opened her heart to me, even as she withholds so much. This was a book about everything—joy and love and beauty and loss. Marriage and motherhood and friendship and grief. All brought to life through the story of a little backyard flock. I was surprised at every turn, moved to laughter and tears both—I could not put it down."
—Emily Ruskovich, author of Idaho
“This is the most wonderful book! Acutely observed and flawlessly conveyed. Completely original, full of surprise, humor, grief, and wisdom and just the right amount of chickens. I am hugely on board with Brood.”
—Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
“A book about caretaking, about trauma and loss, about keeping others and one’s self alive, with sentences so confident and exact they continually took my breath away, Brood is that rare book that lives inside of you long after it’s over, that reminds you of the vast amounts of life that language is capable of conjuring.”
—Lynn Steger Strong, author of Want
"Witty and profound...Told in short vignettes studded with breath-catching wisdom, this novel feels both delicate and sustaining from beginning to end."
"Calling to mind the cerebral works of Olivia Laing and Jenny Offill, Polzin’s story has a quiet intensity that churns throughout. It’s in the tension she builds within her narrator’s isolated world, navigating the paradox of domestic intimacy, the comfort and terror it sows, and the unexpected shapes motherhood can take...A moving meditation on loss, solitude, and the hope that can rise from both."
From Iowa Writers' Workshop grad Brown, The Lowering Days tracks what happens when an about-to-reopen paper mill collapses in flames; for many working-class people in Maine's Penobscot Valley, the mill would have been an essential source of jobs, but for the Penobscot people, it's a source of pollution wrecking ancestral lands (50,000-copy first printing). With TV rights just sold to Heyday Films after a fierce auction, Day's In the Quick features the newly designated engineer on a space station, who believes that a spacecraft launched years ago and powered by her late uncle's supposedly failed fuel cells is still out there somewhere. From Brooklyn College MFA grad and middle school teacher Grattan, The Recent East unfolds the story of a woman who defected from East Germany and returns after the Wall falls, leaving upstate New York with her teenage children to reclaim her parents' mansion (50,000-copy first printing). Irish-born, London-based Nolan's unnamed narrator launches an affair with a charismatic but unstable writer and commits numerous Acts of Desperation to hold him (35,000-copy first printing). Won in an eight-way auction, Polzin's Brood is an intimate look at a woman ushering her four chickens through Minnesota cold and heat, tornados and predators. In The Northern Reach, Winslow portrays a small coastal Maine village whose residents are just getting by, with the narrative centered on a woman who lost her son at sea and is puzzled by a schooner under sail yet motionless across the water (75,000-copy first printing).
In Polzin’s debut, a woman finds solace in a charming, albeit hapless, flock of chickens.
Polzin brings us into the fold of her introspective novel by introducing a cast of chickens. Next comes her nameless narrator. The chickens have names, but they’re irrelevant. The story here has nothing to do with the chickens but rather with what they offer a woman silently reckoning with a recent loss (spoiler: It’s not eggs). “A chicken knows only what it can see,” our narrator muses. They also “die suddenly and without explanation” and only want what is necessary to survive. “I want something that will not end in disappointment,” she thinks to herself. Despite being married, having a handful of friends and a quasi-present mother, she’s left alone with a lot of time to rehash the trauma of her recent miscarriage. Percy, her loving yet abstracted husband, is around but too preoccupied with waiting to hear from a prestigious university about a potential job to stop and notice. Her friend Helen, a real estate agent and new mother, provides an escape from time to time, letting the narrator clean her listed properties before they’re shown—a task she gratefully obliges to, approaching each job with “the steely reserve of a doctor.” “I polish and shine with a frenzy indistinguishable from rapture,” she says. Grieving a role she felt destined to fill, our narrator turns from the intangible and immerses herself in the tactile, including the feathered, clucking company of her birds. Calling to mind the cerebral works of Olivia Laing and Jenny Offill, Polzin’s story has a quiet intensity that churns throughout. It’s in the tension she builds within her narrator’s isolated world, navigating the paradox of domestic intimacy, the comfort and terror it sows, and the unexpected shapes motherhood can take. There are no heart-quickening plot twists or climactic endings here, and that’s the beauty of Polzin’s writing. It doesn’t need either to move you. In Polzin's deft hands, the mundane is an endless source of wonder.
A moving meditation on loss, solitude, and the hope that can rise from both.