Katia Reviews Brood by Jackie Polzin
The narrator of Brood describes for us, in thoughtful prose and brief chapters, the dailiness of caring for her chickens. They are named Gam Gam, Darkness, Gloria, and Miss Hennepin County. She describes lovingly the colors of their combs (the little red wobbly bits on top of their heads) and she truly understands and appreciates their pure, endearing stupidity. She wonders often about how they experience things like time, or snow, or the loss of a fellow chicken in the coop. She cares for them painstakingly, and she reserves for them an unconditional goodwill, something she does not have for the humans in her life, who all float around the edges of the novel. Loss circles the margins, too, as our narrator processes a miscarriage. But there is not much of a discussion of grief as an imitation of the experience of it. When it surfaces--often at the strangest times--our narrator simply describes it, feels it, and then the moment is gone and she continues to go about her day, her life. As we all must.
This is all to say that Brood is a novel about being alive. Not the grand arc of a life, but the true, clumsy day-by-day of it. Since our narrator cleans houses part time, she is familiar with the way mess and grime (physical and emotional) can accumulate, and she is also especially appreciative of the daily work it takes to clear it up, to let the light in. She takes joy in small acts of care, or the beauty of a single, freshly laid egg. This book is perfect for many of us who have been knee deep in the mess of our own lives since early 2020, and need a push to appreciate the preciousness of the day to day. I know, so cliche! I'll put it another way. Mary Oliver instructed us to "pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." This is exactly what Polzin has done with this lovely, melancholy, hopeful slice of a book.