- Paperback: 366 pages
- Publisher: Hedgehog & Fox (May 29, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0996195025
- ISBN-13: 978-0996195027
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,893,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Chicken Stock Paperback – May 29, 2015
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"Over a century ago, Upton Sinclair wrote about the horrors of the American meat-packing industry in The Jungle...this book is far gentler and more human in the story it tells. The novel explores the resilience of the America character as much as it presents arguments against the corporate exploitation of American farms and farmers. In Chicken Stock readers will find a compelling and sympathetic hero, a strong argument for sustainable, natural farming, and a Tennessee novelist worth watching." -Michael Ray Taylor, for Humanities Tennessee's publication Chapter 16
"[Chicken Stock] remains a searing testament to love and loss, as well as an intelligent indictment of big agro-business. A compelling, sensitive contribution to the agriculture debate in the U.S." -Kirkus
About the Author
Leslie Lytle’s short fiction and poems have appeared in a number of literary magazines and journals. She is the author of the book, Execution’s Doorstep, for which Publishers Weekly wrote, “Lytle brings the capital punishment debate into sharp focus with her account of five men wrongly convicted and sentenced to death but later freed.” Having lived in rural Tennessee for over 40 years, Leslie is deeply attached to the people and place. She is a staff writer for The Sewanee Mountain Messenger with a master’s degree from Antioch University in Ohio. Leslie also plays mandolin and harmonica in a Celtic band, playing music linked to the Appalachian tradition. Chicken Stock is her first novel.
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I was impressed with how Lytle eases us into the story, plunging the reader into Berta's perspective as she observes her husband's body in the funeral home. Lytle deftly introduces us to her protagonist, surrounding characters, and the situation, always showing and not telling what we need to know.
Berta is a woman adrift, I felt, trapped by guilt and circumstance and the powers of industrial farming in a life of frustration and backbreaking work, where life itself is not valued and she is powerless to do anything about it.
Lytle portrays these dynamics and the workings of a farm in intimate detail -- at times, for me, too much detail: the inner workings of a feeding machine, talk of the "individual feed conversion ratios" lost me on occasion. But aside from those quibbles, the novel gave me a good sense of the difficult choices that face farmers like Berta.
Mirroring Berta's personality and situation, I felt the plot was a bit "adrift" too, that it could have been more clearly and deliberately structured to give me as a reader a sense of drive toward a goal instead of drifting from one situation and problem to the next. (Perhaps as a pendant to the need for a clearer structure, the novel needs a thorough copy-edit as well. Editor, where were you?)
But Berta's fully developed character, as well as dynamic secondary characters such as her young son Al, and even their sweet puppy Friendly and pet hen Henrietta, kept me engaged throughout the book. This is an appealing set of people to follow through a phase of life.
Read this book to discover an interesting woman -- a town girl who became a farm wife and then a farmer, who is flawed yet lovable, who treasures growing things, hears music wherever she goes, and who is tough yet sensitive and refuses to accept injustice. Read it to learn about the realities of industrial agriculture and how they play out in the lives of individuals.
What happened to the hard work ethic so many have ingrained in their very fiber of existence? Leslie Lytle so gracefully brings to light many issues that are gradually destroying this very American dream; how can we help or care if we do not know? Even though we don't want to admit it, the BIG BUSINESS has turned agriculture into a money making, dishonest and less than wholesome livelihood that would sadden prior generations of hard working Americans who PROUDLY brought "the farm to the table" in America. The greed of the BIG GUY has trickled down to the farmer who has to "play by the rules" or else their families and farms suffer.
Lytle’s story is an important one to tell, and because she never strikes a preachy or moralistic tone, I found myself captivated. In the process I learned a lot about chicken farming— a subject, which goes way beyond my area of expertise. It woke me up, raised my level of awareness, made me reconsider my food choices and makes me wonder what contributions I can make to the development of sustainable food systems.