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Still Life with Chickens: Starting Over in a House by the Sea Paperback – April 24, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (April 24, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452288487
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452288485
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,063,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From her book's opening lines, Goldhammer admits to the many insecurities she faced during her year of transition—during which she gets a divorce, slides "about three tax brackets poorer," relocates to a tattered New England cottage and [...] raises her 12-year-old daughter, as well as half a dozen chicks—while cheekily setting herself apart from her competition in the memoir genre: "I did not have a year in Provence or a villa under the Tuscan sun. I did not have a farm in Africa." Goldhammer, a published poet, has an eye for life's mundane details, and these minutiae can grow tiresome ("We went through two mops, several sponges.... We broke one mop right in half"). But her recounting of her frustrations and her joys while remodeling the house and rearing the chickens is not only amusing but sometimes reads like a self-help manual, in which readers conclude that rolling up one's sleeves, getting busy and staying occupied with any strange new interest can successfully distract one from life's larger trials. As Goldhammer notes, "I had thought I was renovating a house. I didn't know that in the process I would also rebuild my life." (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Goldhammer, newly single and several tax brackets poorer, finds a fixer-upper house she can afford on the peninsula bordered by Boston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. Its salt pond and its possibilities intrigued her, but it was never meant to be a farm--and her 12-year-old daughter hated it, hated her mother, and refused to move. When bribery was offered in the form of six baby chicks, this animal--loving child was won over. This wonderful, poetic chronicle of chickens and life changes will entrance the reader, as Goldhammer learns about chicken care while selling one house and buying and renovating another, learns how to work with tools as she becomes proficient in building chicken coops, and in the process learns how to rebuild her life. Beautiful. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Anyone who has kept chickens as pets will find this book to be laugh out loud funny.
Elizabeth Ray
I love the author's writing style, her ability to observe both the large and small events in her life in fine detail.
K. Corn
I think it was very well written & I was especially entransed by the chicken details!
K. Fox

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Corinne H. Smith VINE VOICE on May 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Divorce happens every day. Families split up, someone leaves the house, and each individual tries to create a new life. What makes Catherine Goldhammer's experience unique is the addition of - believe it or not - CHICKENS. Buying six fluffy chicks and having her teenage daughter learn how to raise them disrupts the household enough that it helps to bridge the transition between the old, comfortable life and the new, unsure one in a fixer-upper along the Massachusetts coastline. Sharing a suburban residence with a dog, a cat, and six chicks who don't stay little for long makes for an interesting and hectic lifestyle. Catherine and Emma's daily routine soon revolves around the feathered ones. Goldhammer tells her story with the candor and humor of hindsight, and it makes for quick and entertaining reading. Most of us have never thought of poultry as possible pets. After finishing "Still Life," readers may find themselves opting for veggie platters over chicken dinners in restaurants.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Number Nine on April 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Chickens! Who would have guessed? An amazingly delightful little book! I was captured on page one and couldn't put it down until I was finished. I came across Still Life with Chickens purely by accident - it was a gift for my mother, who simply adored it and suggested that I give it a read. Judging by the description (a newly single woman, starting over, etc.), I thought this book would resonate mostly with women. But I couldn't have been more wrong, as Catherine Goldhammer's style and humor easily bridges both genders. I truly loved this book, and I can't wait to see what Ms. Goldhammer offers us next! It's that good.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This isn't written from the perspective of a woman who has lots of money and decides to leave her husband and start over, with at least a modicum of strong financial support.

Instead, This is a nitty gritty book that should appeal to the rest of us. It is about the realities of being a divorced mom with a pre-teen daughter (age 12) and severely stressed finances.

I love the author's writing style, her ability to observe both the large and small events in her life in fine detail. By the way, the title isn't just catchy but relates to the very real chickens owned by the mother and her daughter. I'll never look at a chicken in quite the same way, not after reading her descriptions of them. It takes a special perspective to find inspiration in a chicken, but find it she does.

But the chickens are only a part of this book. Mostly it is an account of starting over while being in shakey circumstances, in a house that needs plenty of work, without extra money and with a preteen to care for. In the process, a new identity and place in the world is discovered.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By mamareadssomuch on August 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Who knew a memoir mainly about chickens could be so interesting? Catherine Goldhammer starts her life over in a house by the sea which might not look that appealing but has charm nonetheless. She divorces and her daughter, Emma who is 12, move about 1 1/2 mile from their old home and begin a new life. The only thing to ensure Emma's happiness at moving is to promise the purchase of chickens! There is heaps to do with setting up a new home and the caretaking of chickens is no small task.

This memoir will surely entertain and inspire. Perhaps you will wish you had a coop of chickens in your yard by the end!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mark J. Holden on August 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Catherine Goldhammer's Still Life with Chickens delivers its promise of being a story about starting over, or restarting--after the author realizes that her life isn't working, and that she needs or wants another life: a different one, a better one.

Still Life is well-written, thoughtful,and funny, with no dead weight. The prose is simple, crisp, and elegant. The chickens in the story serve as central metaphor for the author's and her daughter Emma's transition to a new life and a new home. They serve as both attraction and distraction, enabling Ms. Goldhammer to coax, with baby chicks, her own twelve-year-old chick out of the familiar and safe home she grew up in. The chick's delicate little bodies and tentative hold on life mirror mother and daughter's struggle to transition out of the relative serenity of one house and into another--a house by the sea--a somewhat ramshackle building which Catherine sees in a new light, and rebuilds with vision, and which becomes Dragonfly Farm: a place of love and regeneration.

Catherine's daughter Emma, whom the mother obviously adores, is smart and sensitive and also a source of strength and humor for her mother.

Still Life with Chickens is a carefully crafted, wonderful book about mothers and daughters, abiding love, and the magical powers of place, home, and the animals we love.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on May 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Still Life With Chickens is a captivating memoir of the life and times of Catherine Goldhammer. An exceptionally well written and entertaining memoir, Still Life With Chickens tells of the poorly positioned Goldhammer, her daughter, and their move from their suburban home to a rustic dwelling by the sea -- and the Goldhammer family's transformation from a life of chaotic disorganization to one of confluent diligence and an eclectic servitude to a brood of six newly purchased baby chickens. Very highly recommended reading (especially for those interested in a riveting tale of mother and daughter in pursuit of a better and more fulfilling life for themselves), Still Life With Chickens is an inspirational story of personal growth and familial revival.
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