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Still Life with Chickens: Starting Over in a House by the Sea
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Still Life with Chickens: Starting Over in a House by the Sea

3.49  ·  Rating Details  ·  773 Ratings  ·  173 Reviews
For the millions who loved A Year by the Sea comes a memoir of a woman who awakens at midlife to find wisdom in a most unlikely place

In this lovely, unconventional, often funny memoir, we meet Catherine Goldhammer, newly separated and several tax brackets poorer, forced by circumstance to move from the affluent New England suburb of her daughter's childhood into a new, m
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Hardcover, 192 pages
Published April 20th 2006 by Hudson Street Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,314)
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Molly
Feb 20, 2012 Molly rated it did not like it
There should be an option for "hated it" on goodreads.

I can't even go into all the things I disliked about this book because I'm still full of rage. I'll go into this though, it is NOT written well. I understand she was going for a poetic feel but between giving things stupid names (If I ever hear the term "hearts-are-cold" again I will kill someone, I'm not joking) and bringing up unrelated thoughts out of no where I wonder how someone really gave this book an OK to be published. There are part
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Judy
Jun 17, 2011 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This memoir is about Catherine Goldhammer's journey from newly divorced, broke,big house owner, parent of a pre-teen to scaled-down home buyer of a fixer-upper and parent to a finicky teenager.

What I liked:
*I found it delightful and read it in a couple of sittings. It has small pages and short chapters, so this is not difficult.
* I was able to relate well to her. I liked her individuality, honesty and persistence.
* Her willingness to get in and get her hands dirty while building the chicken run
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Megan
Oct 13, 2008 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author had me at: "This is the story of my foray into the salvation of one sorry house and garden and one slightly tattered soul."

That sounded so familiar, and the writing was so poetic and at the same time so down to earth that I knew I was going to like this book. And it didn't disappoint.

This is a funny, poignant, clever and quick read that just about anyone would enjoy. But I especially recommend it for women who are going through any kind of a major life transition and are looking for
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Barbara M
I found this little book charming and delightful to read. It's a quick, light, fun read. The author is a poet and it is well written - poetic. She is also humorous and I smiled a lot reading it!

This is a true story about a woman who following a divorce sells her grand home in a prestigious part of town. She moves to a more humble home - by the water - in desperate need of renovations. In order to get her 12 year old daughter interested in moving, she agrees to allow her to raise chickens (someth
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Joanne
Jul 25, 2010 Joanne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was fun to read, I laughed out loud at the decription of the thoughts chickens have. I had a difficult time when she wrote about financial difficulty. She bought a house at the beach ! It reminded me of an old joke. A little rich girl is given a writing assignment, to write about a poor family. She started out, " Once there was a poor family. The parents were poor, the kids were poor, the butler was poor, the cook was poor. Everybody was poor."
Linda
Apr 10, 2011 Linda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american, memoir
This is a quiet book about starting over, but don't expect excitement or revelation. The author has an amicable divorce, if left with plenty of money to hire workers to renovate her new neglected cottage with the beautiful view. The best part is the scenery, the Northeast weather, and the wonderful details of raising chickens.
Eva
Sep 26, 2011 Eva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the midst of getting divorced, selling her home, and buying a smaller home in a less wealthy neighborhood, Catherine finds herself deadlocked with her 12 year old daughter who refuses to move, refuses to stop pouting, refuses to give her mom a break.

So, she does what every parent knows not to do, but most of us do anyway when faced with a difficult situation and an obstructive child. She bribes her daughter. Now this daughter loves animals, so the perfect bribe was six fluffy chicks. Unfortun
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Yvonne
Feb 02, 2008 Yvonne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For some reason, even though I've read this twice before courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia, I just HAD to run out to Borders, buy it, and read it again. It's quick read, and I love the author's wry humor and playful way with words that never becomes too twee. It's one of those "after the divorce/single mama with child" memoirs, as my boss said when he spotted me carrying it, but it's never run of the mill. Goldhammer and daughter did indeed have six, count 'em, six very colorful chick ...more
Susan
Sep 26, 2015 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have read this book simply for the title, but one of our book club members chose it and I'm glad she did. The writing's lovely. It could not be easy to describe chickens in such an enchanting way. I also liked the author's honesty.
planetkimi
I enjoyed the adventures with the chickens, but I could not relate to her "diminished resources."

I realize that the author found her circumstances bewildering and stressful, but I think she should be grateful that she had the resources to buy a house, renovate it, and not work full time. That sounds like a blessing to me.

If I could afford to renovate my house, that would be a cause for celebration, not rumination on how poor I am. Also, if I wasn't working full time, I'd probably have time to
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Janet
May 18, 2015 Janet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an absolutely delightful book.
Cherie In the Dooryard
This is a quick read, and for me it didn't hold much meat. The author, despite trying really, really hard to frame this as a complete life-shift and give great meaning to the chickens of the title, never convinced me of it. The whole thing was very flat and if it were a novel I'd say, "No character development."

The daughter is interesting. If she wrote a memoir, I'd read it.
Lexie
Sep 07, 2010 Lexie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good "starting-over" memoir. Normally I don't like this kind of book (i didn't get past page 30 in Eat Pray Love) but I liked this one. And I learned a lot about chickens.
Erin
Sep 08, 2008 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
When I got to the end of this book I cried. I was expecting a sort of funny little story about a divorced women and her kid who got chickens as a way of getting through the divorce and move and all. I wasn't expecting a book that would have meaning.
Elaine
Jun 28, 2011 Elaine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After reading this book, I cannot fathom why (a) anyone would want to raise chickens, (b) why anyone would want to live in a place like Six Mile Beach, especially in the winter, and (c) why some people make their lives so hard.
Mollie
Jun 03, 2009 Mollie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the way this book wasn't a sob story. She's getting a divorce and starting over--it could have been quite the dram. Instead, she offers beautiful language and restraint.
Ida
May 26, 2010 Ida rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book has it's moments. If you are a chicken lover and owner (like myself) you will appreciate the book even more. It's short and sometimes cute but not a "must read".
Ann
Small, uncomplicated, lovely. Reading this book was like carrying around a long letter from a friend you love hearing from.
Shirley
Jan 26, 2013 Shirley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Somebody passed me this book because I have chickens.
Kind of like reading the journal of a friend who wants her journal to be published.
But here's a quote I liked, because I have also sat in a lawn chair for the express purpose of watching the girls:
(p. 168)
"So what was it about chickens that made me want not set up my lawn chair out there by the chicken yard, sit down with a glass of lemonade, and watch? They are simple. They don't seem to think much. Their minds are like the clear blue skies t
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Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
"I realized what the chickens had given us, way back then, when it made no sense to get them and we got them anyway. They had given us hope and maybe that's all there is. Maybe that's what Yo-Yo Ma gives us, and Bach, and Puccini, and the faces of our children, our friends, our families, good work, the ocean, the moon rising over the pond, the havens of our homes."

"All I wanted for her (her daughter) was for her to be safe and sober and happy, but life is also made up of danger and intoxication
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Liora Sophie
One of the things I liked best about Still Life With Chickens was its size. 180 pages long, very portable, easy to hold up when you're lying in bed. I read very slowly, and often become frustrated by the amount of time it takes me to get through a book, but this one was short, so it was a nice and cozy read.

Still Life With Chickens is a memoir about a woman who got divorced and moved to a house by the sea with her preteen daughter, where they raised six chickens. The atmosphere is very relaxed,
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Lucy Wightman
Feb 23, 2013 Lucy Wightman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, fiction
Susan Ovans, the publisher of the Hull Times, and a Goodreads member (her reviews are often better than those found in the NYT Book Review) suggested I read this small, unassuming book. Its unassuming narrator, Catherine Goldhammer, narrates from Hull, or “Six Mile Beach.”

Goldhammer, newly separated, chronicles her perspective through a common lifestyle transition, and symbolically informs her readers by using one of earth’s most common creatures: the chicken. Her challenges multiply exponentia
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Kaitlyn Scott
Still Life with Chickens: Starting Over in a House by the Sea; is a story of a woman recently divorced, recently quit her job, and coerced her 12 year old daughter to move to a downgraded house by the sea. She coerced her daughter to move by telling her and buying her six chickens.
"I realized what the chickens had given us, way back then, when it made no sence to get them and we got them anyway. They had given us hope, and maybe that's all there is. Hope." -Catherine Goldhammer
I loved that in
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Kate
"In this charming and beautifully written memoir, we meet Catherine Goldhammer, newly separated and starting life anew in a cottage by the sea, in a town where bait is sold from vending machines. Against all logic, partly to please her precocious twelve-year-old daughter and partly for reasons not clear to her at the time, she begins this year of transition by purchasing six baby chickens -- whose job, she comes to suspect, is to pull her and her daughter forward, out of one life and into anothe ...more
Cindy
Have you ever just loved a book for it's simplicity and silliness? Well, this was one of those books! It was about a newly divorced woman who sells her house and buys a fixer upper on the 'other side of the tracks' along with six baby chicks for her precocious 12 year old daughter after her daughter refused to move. The author used chickens as 'bait'!

The baby chicks first resided in the bathtub, then were moved to a big refrigerator box that the author "decided should have a door, a side window
...more
Pamela
Jul 22, 2015 Pamela rated it liked it
Fast read, light read. A newly divorced woman buys a dilapidated home by the sea and moves in with her daughter and 6 chickens. Easy reading style. Not too much extraordinary happened and she made some stupid mistakes with the chickens. This kind of irritated me, but it was truthful. I don't know very much about chickens and she scared me off a little, but I will probably still get some. ;)
Larisa
Sep 11, 2012 Larisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Rebecca
I read this as an e-book borrowed from my local library. I'd originally been looking for a murder mystery, "Still Life," which wasn't offered in e-book format but this came up in the search results and I thought I'd give it a try. I'd been flirting with the idea of keeping chickens but after reading this book I probably won't--they're a lot more work than I realized! That said, of course, this book is about much more than keeping chickens, though the hens work well as a way to hold the book toge ...more
David
Apr 27, 2011 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
What an amazing memoir! This is one of those small, quiet books that you read with an increasing sense of joy. The recently-divorced author describes her and her daughter's move from a wealthy New England suburb to a ramshackle cottage in need of repair. Sounds pretty standard, but enter the chickens! On a whim, and as a gesture towards her daughter, she acquires some baby chicks. Throughout the rest of the book (and her transition into a newly-independent single woman) the chickens take on a la ...more
Claire
Nov 09, 2009 Claire rated it liked it
This memoir is about a woman who, after her marriage falls apart, moves herself, her daughter and her whole life out of their home and into a dilapidated house by the sea, and begins to raise chickens. As she tells about renovating her new house and life, you start to see the chickens pulling her forward, never letting her dwell or freeze. They become a thread of hope leading her into each new day.

Despite the delightful premise, wonderful chicken stories, and fun writing style, I was overwhelme
...more
Katharine Holden
Sep 21, 2013 Katharine Holden rated it it was ok
Parts of this book are interesting. The overall effect is damaged, however, when you realize that the author presents herself as working with diminished resources when she is not, not really. So the "brave little me" tone in parts of the book kind of fell flat for me when I realized that she can buy a new house without having sold the old first, hire a veritable army of workmen to repair the new house from top to bottom, live quite well without a paying job, do all of the things she used to do, ...more
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Catherine Goldhammer is a graduate of Goddard College and was a poetry fellow in the fine arts program at the University of Massachusetts.
More about Catherine Goldhammer...

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“someday, we'll look back on this, laugh nervously, and change the subject.” 4 likes
“doesn't matter if the glass is half full or half empty... drink it and get on with your life.” 1 likes
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