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Barn 8

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  128 ratings  ·  31 reviews
An unforgettably exuberant and potent novel by a writer at the height of her powers

Two auditors for the U.S. egg industry go rogue and conceive a plot to steal a million chickens in the middle of the nightan entire egg farms worth of animals. Janey and Clevelanda spirited former runaway and the officious head of auditsassemble a precarious, quarrelsome team and descend on
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 3rd 2020 by Graywolf Press
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Deb I can't say I was consciously thinking about it, but I do love that book. Also I love Catch-22 and George Saunders's story "Fox 8." They all have…moreI can't say I was consciously thinking about it, but I do love that book. Also I love Catch-22 and George Saunders's story "Fox 8." They all have something a bit in common with the book and all have numbers in their titles for similar reasons.(less)

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Average rating 3.94  · 
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Uriel Perez
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The alarming decline of Western Civilization serves as the punchline to Deb Olin Unferth's apocalyptic and big-hearted new novel, BARN 8.

Its the end of the world as we know it, but theres still a few optimistic hangers-on that believe well pull through. Take several hundred rag-tag ex-eco activists, a million incarcerated hens being groomed for future work as nuggets and tenders, and one ingenious plan to bust them out and you have the groundwork for this novel that, for all the gloom and doom
Mar 02, 2020 marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2020-releases
March 2, 2020: No idea why they don't have an audiobook edition listed on here but I'm still excited to listen to this unusual heist story, and what's not to be happy about comedy meeting politics? Thank you, LibroFM and Recorded Books for the advanced listening copy!
J. A.
Feb 26, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2020
The way in which socio-political meets humor meets action meets inventive delivery here is a feat. Unferth has done something truly laudable and remarkable with this novel.

Interview with Deb Olin Unferth at Ploughshares:
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a wacky, imaginative and brilliant novel. I loved anything to do with the lives of chickens (who knew? So complex!). I loved the characters. I loved the writing. This book draws you in immediately with the story of Janey, her estranged Father and the Mother that raised her. We meet Janey on a bus on the way to Ohio to meet said Father for the first time. What ensues is a comic caper with vegan overtones. This book seamlessly (and at times hilariously) skewers the American egg industry ...more
Geonn Cannon
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was told in a really fascinating way. It starts out mostly normal, but by the end it shifts pov, time frame, even reality to tell the story of the heist and everything after. There's nothing linear about the last 30% or so, and it's all beautifully written. And yes, the book is about the horror show of chicken farms, but it presentsthe facts without (in my opinion) crossing the line into preachiness. Recommended.

(Yet another really good bird-related book on my list... theme year, I
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"But nobody likes chickens! Nobody cares about chickens! Once I found myself sitting on a plane next to this somewhat famous journalist. I told her about the book and she said, 'But why would I care about chickens? You should at least do turkeys, people care a little about turkeys.' I thought, jeez, maybe I should change it to turkeys."

The rest of my interview with Deb Olin Unferth on the Chicago Review of Books!
Apr 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
The NY Times Book Review made this book sound controversial and interesting. It wasn't. Not at all. Flat characters, slow, and we knew the motivations of perhaps one of them. I am in complete agreement with Pari's review , who must be a big fan of American Graffiti:
Nicole Schrag
Mar 20, 2020 added it
Shelves: food
Consumption read #4. Im not sure it made me think too differently about food ethics, though Deb Olin Unferths passages about chickens (and one brief one about dogs) are so humorous, empathetic, and compelling, that maybe this novel actually has changed the way I think about eggs... ...more
Possibly in Michigan, London
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is very much about chickens and industrial agriculture. (See Unferths Harpers Magazine essay Cage Wars for the journalism behind this novel.) But Unferth shows that when you examine something closely enough, you find it connects to everything else: capitalism, climate change, the fate of humanity and the future of the planet.

What happens if you have a vision of freedom like Janey Flores does while working as an auditor at an egg farm, a vision of a million chickens suddenly freed from
Derek Allard
Mar 10, 2020 rated it liked it
While she is one of my favorite authors (her short story collection "Wait Till You See Me Dance" remains one of the best books I've read in the past decade) this book never got going enough. As I read it I kept thinking that the style of the book (more darkly comic) actually takes away from the book. She clearly did a lot of homework for this novel as there are very interesting / disturbing facts about the egg laying industry but they are wedged in around wacky characters quirky personalities ...more
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it

They didnt know what she wanted but a few days later they went. They dropped their tools, wrapped up their investigations, or got sober. They filled their tanks, filed onto flights, boarded buses. They were on the move. It was biblical, mythological, fabled. They disappeared out of their spots like the rapture but there were so few of them and they were such loners, their absence was barely noticed. An assembling army called out of reserve. For what, they didnt know, but they believed in
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: notable-books, 2020
Barn 8 has an absolutely irresistible premise: two disenchanted agricultural workers conceive of a plan to free 1 million chicken from laying batteries and enlist the help of roughly 500 militant vegans to stage the biggest heist in agricultural history.
Thankfully, the outrageous idea pays off wonderfully. I absolutely adored this book. Hilarious and preposterous as the storyline may be, the anger and sadness about the horrifying disregard for nature and animal rights are heart-felt and
Mar 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Thanks to for the advance listening copy, I love getting access to a selection of new audiobooks every month.

I had never heard of this book and it had an interesting premise- animal rights activists coming to liberate some chickens from an egg farm. The book starts with a young girl going to find her biological father and he ends up working for an egg farm. She ends up living out there for good and ends up in the egg industry.

She ends up becoming involved with the animal rights people.
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When two egg industry auditors devise a plan to steal a million chickens, you wont think theyre crazyyoull be rooting for them the whole way. Barn 8 hits the ground running like a chicken with its head cut off. A colorful cast is brought to life beautifully in the audiobook, and theres plenty of irony and thoughtfulness. The most emotional moments for me were those which involved the chickenstheir lives, their wants, their freedom. At just the right time, Deb Olin Unferth gracefully shines light ...more
Erin Ryan
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I didnt expect to LOVE it; I figured I would like it. But, I was wrong. Barn 8 is both brutal and slapstick at once. The human characters are both serious and ridiculous. There is a fully realized chicken character. The best way I can think to describe it would be: a heist book about a ragtag group of eco terrorists who target factory farming that turns into a meditation on what it means to be a family, a species. It also felt like a perfectly apt political allegory for the ...more
Mar 29, 2020 rated it liked it
This was almost a DNF for me because the first 100 pages are slow moving character development and over-dwelled hatching of the plan (pun not intended). However, starting at page 134, Unferths focus moves to the experience of the chickens and the plan is finally enacted. From here on the story is quite compelling and tragic and poignant and beautiful. ...more
Paula Lyle
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Consider the humble chicken.

This is a tour de force journey through modern chicken farming, animal rights activists, and family farmers. It is funny and sweet, also horrifying and sad. I didn't particularly like most of the people, but it was OK because I loved the chickens. And I loved this book!
Kristi Brockelsby
Mar 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book may have one of the most unique narrative structures that I've ever read. It took a little bit to get into because of that, but is ultimately part of what made it so enjoyable.

It's funny and touching and really makes you think.
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cant eat eggs for who knows how long now

I loved this ridiculous, funny, weird, poignant book. The author used her super bizarre premise to touch on many truths about the human (and apparently chicken) existence. Made me laugh and cry... about chickens. 🙃🙃😍
Heather Larocchia
Mar 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: environmental
Chickens gossip, summon, play, flirt, teach, warn, mourn, fight, praise, and promise.

I enjoyed the chapters on the chickens POV the most. I especially enjoyed the description of what chickens envision death to look like.

There were just so many voices, it was hard to keep track.
Alisha Linehan
Apr 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
If *Chicken Run* has been orchestrated by conservation terrorists. Love the small glimpses into the inner life of the Big Ag chicken.
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written, sorrowful

The prose of this book was moving and well-crafted, though the topic was often sad. It is sometimes nihilistic, occasionally faintly hopeful.
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
you can read my review soon in The Brooklyn Rail.
Ben VonArchimboldi
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Its not just a book about stealing a million chickensthough that is the major storyits a book about the soul of the chickenand perhaps, how that soul is mirrored within us. ...more
Mar 14, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A group of animal rights activists attempt a daring incursion on an industrial chicken farm.
Tom Beshear
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What Richard Powers did for trees, Deb Olin Unferth does for chickens. "Barn 8" is the "Monkey Wrench Gang" of animal-rights activism.
Mar 19, 2020 rated it did not like it
I was so excited to read this one - a book about rogue Ag workers who liberate hundreds of thousands of chickens from a hen farm. The topic felt unique and juicy. I was so excited to get to know the characters, the decisions that led them to change course, from working for Big Ag to working against it.

Maybe I built it up too much. My expectations were high, and Barn 8 floundered under them. There are a lot of pages of chicken shit - literal chicken shit. So, it feels like at least Unferth did
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
Chicken farms as a metaphor for America. Maybe. Is it about the futility of good deeds and rebellion in late-stage capitalism or just a comedic animal rights caper celebrating the maligned chicken? Both! Written from a multitude of perspectives, including chickens in heaven and random observers, every page of this feels different, each character thoughtfully and hilariously sketched and entirely brand new.
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Deb Olin Unferth is the author of six books, including the novel Barn 8 and the story collection Wait Till You See Me Dance. Her work has appeared in Harpers, The Paris Review, Granta, Vice, NOON, the New York Times, and McSweeneys. She has received a Guggenheim fellowship, a Creative Capital grant, three Pushcart Prizes, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. An associate ...more

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