Bonnie Gayle's Reviews > The Egg and I

The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald
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Oct 30, 07

bookshelves: non-fiction, reviewed, library-books
Recommended for: fans of autobiographies and "roughing it" tales
Read in October, 2007

Well, there are 2 groups of people I wouldn't recommend this book to: vegetarians/animal lovers, due to the realities written about of living on a farm, and especially a chicken farm, and people offended by racist Native American portrayals, due to the author's own racist opinions.
I can pretty much guarantee that if you don't fall into the first group, you most likely will fall into the second, so I'm not sure who to recommed it to. In fact, I myself threw down the book in disgust, and almost gave it up completely, when I read the last paragraph of the chapter titled "Bow and Arrow", in which she states that it's a good thing that we took this beautiful country away from "the braves", because Hiawatha they ain't. At this point, you might be wondering why I gave it 3 stars, and in fact would give it 3.5 if I could. Well, I'll get into that after a summarize the plot.

This is an autobiographical story written in 1945 by the author of the Miss Piggle Wiggle series. Betty marries a man named Bob, whose job has something to do with numbers and money. She's not sure exactly what. Soon after they marry, Bob begins dreaming of running a chicken farm. Betty's mother gave her the advice, when she was growing up, that whatever your husband wants to do, say yes, because if they are happy with their profession, you are happy. This worked well for Betty's mom, who was the adventurous sort, but it does not turn out so well for Betty, because Bob moves them to the mountains of Vashon Island (in Washington) to a farm with no running water, no electricity, and no neigbbors within 4 miles, or town within 20. The book takes place during their first year on the farm, through trials and tribulations, learning and growing, good times and bad, but always with a sense of humor, and a sense that despite Betty's grumbles, she will make it work.

Okay, so for the good. Like I mentioned, the book is written with a great deal of humor. This does not mean that Betty is thrilled with what her life is like now. In fact, her neighbors are shocked by her for 2 reasons: she reads, and she says no to her husband. At some points, I wished she would tell him no more often, since it seems like she is the only one taking care of the darn chickens, but she was pretty progressive for the time, in that aspect, I guess.
Another good part are the descriptions. She describes her actions, and especially her surroundings remarkably well. Part of it is that she personifies nature, which normally is not recommended, but she does it to perfection, hilariously so. She also describes her neighbors so well, that if you were to meet Maw and Paw Kettle somehow, you would feel like you knew them. She sometimes is...okay, quite often is biting in her descriptions of her neigbors, which is odd, because they are real people, but I guess she figures it's okay because they can't read. Hmmmmm...

I have to mention another bad thing, which is her complete lack of transitions. She begins a chapter by listing, for example, "all the good things about living this way were the food, the views, ...and so on, and would then go on to write about the food. All of a sudden, bam, a paragraph will begin, "The views..." and you're thrown for a second, until you realize, okay she's just going to jump from one item on the list to the next, transitionless. It took a while to get used to.

There you have it. The good and the bad. I'll leave it up to you to decide which outweighs which in your mind.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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John Gayle,

I have to disagree with you regarding Betty's "racist Native American portrayals, due to the author's own racist opinions." One needs to realize that The Egg and I took place between 1927 and 1931, and published in 1947. Her portrayal of our native American friends was not intended to be raciest. In that case, Gone With the Wind, Tom Sawyer, Huckelberry Finn, and To Kill a Mockingbird could be considered racist. I have spent the past 5 years researching Betty's life, and through conversation with both her family and friends I can say here and now that Betty was not a racist. In fact, her best friend was a Japanese American. Read Betty's book "The Plague and I" and you will see that there was not a racist bone in Betty's body.



marissa I'm so glad that you mentioned the racist elements of the book along with the good and enjoyable parts, because for me, they were really inseparable. MacDonald may be a lovely person as John Gayle claims, but she still wrote intensely ugly, racist things about the Coast Salish people. Acknowledging that harmful aspect of the book is just as important as being joyful about the lovely aspects of it.


Wyatt Just a quick correction: Bob moves them to the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula, near Chimacum, WA. Betty MacDonald didn't move to Vashon Island until 1942 with her second husband.


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