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When Betty MacDonald married a marine and moved to a small chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, she was largely unprepared for the rigors of life in the wild. With no running water, no electricity, a house in need of constant repair, and days that ran from four in the morning to nine at night, the MacDonalds had barely a moment to put their feet up an When Betty MacDonald married a marine and moved to a small chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, she was largely unprepared for the rigors of life in the wild. With no running water, no electricity, a house in need of constant repair, and days that ran from four in the morning to nine at night, the MacDonalds had barely a moment to put their feet up and relax. And then came the children. Yet through every trial and pitfall—through chaos and catastrophe—this indomitable family somehow, mercifully, never lost its sense of humor. An immortal, hilarious and heartwarming classic about working a chicken farm in the Northwest, a part of which first appeared in a condensed serialization in the Atlantic monthly.


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When Betty MacDonald married a marine and moved to a small chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, she was largely unprepared for the rigors of life in the wild. With no running water, no electricity, a house in need of constant repair, and days that ran from four in the morning to nine at night, the MacDonalds had barely a moment to put their feet up an When Betty MacDonald married a marine and moved to a small chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, she was largely unprepared for the rigors of life in the wild. With no running water, no electricity, a house in need of constant repair, and days that ran from four in the morning to nine at night, the MacDonalds had barely a moment to put their feet up and relax. And then came the children. Yet through every trial and pitfall—through chaos and catastrophe—this indomitable family somehow, mercifully, never lost its sense of humor. An immortal, hilarious and heartwarming classic about working a chicken farm in the Northwest, a part of which first appeared in a condensed serialization in the Atlantic monthly.

30 review for The Egg and I

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    I'm giving this (a very generous) 2 stars due to the excellent scenic descriptions of the Washington state environment. I got a real sense of the beauty and bounty of the area and that's one thing I always enjoy about a book. Otherwise, MaCDonald's brand of humor isn't one shared by me, and I found nothing remotely funny about her life on a chicken farm in the 1940's. There's a bitterness about her observations of "people-not-herself" that manifests itself as a mean-spirited bigotry that you ofte I'm giving this (a very generous) 2 stars due to the excellent scenic descriptions of the Washington state environment. I got a real sense of the beauty and bounty of the area and that's one thing I always enjoy about a book. Otherwise, MaCDonald's brand of humor isn't one shared by me, and I found nothing remotely funny about her life on a chicken farm in the 1940's. There's a bitterness about her observations of "people-not-herself" that manifests itself as a mean-spirited bigotry that you often find in older books. I'm one of the last people to jump on the PC patrol wagon for a book written prior to the 1960's, but even I could hardly stomach some of MacDonald's catty remarks about people who (between the lines I read) were uneducated but overall warm-hearted and willing to try and be friends (and friendly) with the MacDonald's in the way that came easiest to them. And don't even get me started on her opinions of the Native Americans (let me just say that they made Ma Ingall's of Little House fame look like a charter member of the ACLU...) Really having a hard time seeing this as an American classic in humor, but there it is. I'll leave it up to others to enjoy (or despise) this on their own.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Margitte

    This is one of the most funniest and fascinating memoirs I have ever read. I want to add some quotes later on. This book is a must-read. THEN .... LATER ON ... We had a power cut yesterday and since my iPad was low on battery power as well, I did not want to spend it writing reviews. So I waited until today to add some memorable quotes from the book to my thoughts. There was so much in the book to relate to, living in the mountains myself and having to deal with similar adventures(yes, even many d This is one of the most funniest and fascinating memoirs I have ever read. I want to add some quotes later on. This book is a must-read. THEN .... LATER ON ... We had a power cut yesterday and since my iPad was low on battery power as well, I did not want to spend it writing reviews. So I waited until today to add some memorable quotes from the book to my thoughts. There was so much in the book to relate to, living in the mountains myself and having to deal with similar adventures(yes, even many decades after this book was published), that I just had the laughs of my life reading this book. Her outright honesty, just being herself, was really so refreshing! Sooooo, some quotes: lots o'em!!! (view spoiler)[ ...I was too fat and I wanted desperately not to eat and be willowy and romantic but there seemed nothing else to do. Bob ate almost nothing and looked furtive like a trapped animal. I guess it is quite a wrench for a bachelor to give up his freedom, particularly when, every time he looks at his wife, he realizes that he is facing a future teeming with large grocery bills... ...The moonshine in a gallon jug was a dark amber color and had a hot explosive smell. We had a drink before dinner that night and it went down with lights flashing like marbles in a pinball game... ... And then winter settled down and I realized that defeat, like morale, is a lot of little things... ...WHEN you make a complete change in your mode of living, as I did, you learn that, along with the strange aspects of the new life which seep in and become part of you, will come others to which you never become accustomed. Some of the things I never got used to were: The hen. The gasoline lantern. The outhouse at night where I had a horrible choice of either sitting in the dark and not knowing what was crawling on me or bringing a lantern and attracting moths, mosquitoes, night hawks and bats. No radio. No telephone. Bats hanging upside down in the cellar, flying in the open bedroom windows on summer nights, swooping low over the bed, almost touching my face and making my skin undulate in horror. Dropping boards and chicken lice. The inconsistency of a Mother Nature who made winter so wetly, coldly, soggily miserable that I wanted to get back under my stone, and spring so warm, so lush and fragrant that I wanted to roll on my back and whinny... ...(Cinnamon roles) were so tender and delicate I had to bring myself up with a jerk to keep from eating a dozen. The coffee was so strong it snarled as it lurched out of the pot and I girded up my loins for the first swallow and was amazed to find that when mixed with plenty of thick cream it was palatable. True it bore only the faintest resemblance to coffee as I made it but still it had a flavor that was good when I got my throat muscles loosened up again... ...Mary MacGregor had fiery red, dyed hair, a large dairy ranch and a taste for liquor. Drunker than an owl, she would climb on to her mowing machine, “Tie me on tight, Bill!” she would yell at her hired man. So Bill would tie her on with clothes lines, baling wire and straps, give her the reins and away she’d go, singing at the top of her voice, cutting her oats in semi-circles and happy as a clam. She plowed, disked, harrowed, planted, cultivated and mowed, tied to the seat of the machine and hilariously drunk. A smashing witticism of the farmers was, “You should take a run down the valley and watch Mary sowin’ her wild oats.”... ...Mary sold cream to the cheese factory. One morning she found a skunk drowned in a ten-gallon can of cream. She lifted the skunk out by the tail and with her other hand she carefully squeezed the cream from his fur. “Just between us skunks, cream is cream,” she said as she threw the carcass into the barnyard. She sold the cream and vowed she’d never tell a soul but Bill the hired man told everyone, especially people he saw coming out of the cheese factory with a five-pound round of cheese... The good layers looked motherly, their combs were full and bright red, their eyes large, beaks broad and short, and their bodies were well rounded, broad-hipped and built close to the ground. They were also the diligent scratchers and eaters and their voices seemed a little lower with overtones of lullaby. The non-producers, the childless parasites, were just as typical. Their combs were small and pale, eyes small, beaks sharp and pointed, legs long, hips narrow, and they spent all of their time gossiping, starting fights, and going into screaming hysterics over nothing. The non-producers also seemed subject to many forms of female trouble—enlarged liver, wire worms, and blowouts (prolapse of the oviduct). What a bitter thing for them that, unlike their human counterparts, their only operation was one performed with an axe on the neck... ... I got out iodine, bandages, sleeping tablets and my self-control, because, though Bob was being brave and careless in front of Elwin, alone with me, he would act as if the bear had laid open both his lungs and his large intestine, and would spend many happy hours looking for the first signs of blood poisoning. It occurred to me then, that no mention had been made of our dog’s part in the fray... (hide spoiler)] I think this book will be one of my all time favorites. I've learnt early in my own expeditions into the wild that a healthy sense of humor was the only thing that will keep me sane and happy. Instead of being mad, frustrated, depressed, I wrote down my experiences for friends and family in long letters that had everyone hollering with laughter. They phoned me with tears of merriment in their voices. It was my way of healing and balancing out life. So in every sense of the word, I identified with Beth and knew what she was trying to accomplish. I felt like her.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    I have read Betty MacDonald's The Egg and I at least three times. The first time I was about twelve, the second, maybe twenty-one and the last time in the virtual dotage of sixty-two. My ten year old self took this as a fabulous adventure story and I wanted nothing more than to meet Gams and the hyperactive grandma and eat a geoduck clam with the MacDonalds. At twenty-one, I laughed my head off. Being of an impractical nature myself, I got anxious and then giggling at what I took to be a hippies-in-the-w I have read Betty MacDonald's The Egg and I at least three times. The first time I was about twelve, the second, maybe twenty-one and the last time in the virtual dotage of sixty-two. My ten year old self took this as a fabulous adventure story and I wanted nothing more than to meet Gams and the hyperactive grandma and eat a geoduck clam with the MacDonalds. At twenty-one, I laughed my head off. Being of an impractical nature myself, I got anxious and then giggling at what I took to be a hippies-in-the-woods story. Last month, I nodded my head a lot as I read through my mother's copy that was passed on through a few inheritances. MacDonald looks to me now like an a woman who was sharp before her time-a person who whose sense of adventure and sense of humor allowed her to transcend the limited choices she was offered in the 1950's and turn the egg she was offered into a puffy, generous and thoroughly nutrisious omellette. -Lynn Hoffman, author of The New Short Course in Wine and a novel about another original woman: bang BANG

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Oh, this book. I would give 90% of it 5 stars, but the other 10% gets negative stars. So whatever that evens out to is anyone's guess...The author is so talented and her prose so sprightly in parts and poetic in others that there can be no doubt as to the quality of the writing. Much if not most of it is fantastic. My biggest problem with this book is the author's deeply ingrained snobbery and worse, racism. She's dismissive of all her neighbors, drawing blood with her pen as she eviscerates their Oh, this book. I would give 90% of it 5 stars, but the other 10% gets negative stars. So whatever that evens out to is anyone's guess...The author is so talented and her prose so sprightly in parts and poetic in others that there can be no doubt as to the quality of the writing. Much if not most of it is fantastic. My biggest problem with this book is the author's deeply ingrained snobbery and worse, racism. She's dismissive of all her neighbors, drawing blood with her pen as she eviscerates their housekeeping skills, personal appearance and lack of education. She's unbearable when discussing the Native American population of the rural Washington community she moves to, writing such hateful things that even when you take into account the times in which she grew up, there can be no mitigation of her small-mindedness, which is ironic, given her near-manic attempts to sprinkle her prose with French phrases, literary name-checks and other nuggets of erudition. Another irony: the one area of her life that falls outside the reach of her sharp pen is the power structure of her marriage. Her husband, often described as "devastatingly handsome" comes across a petty tyrant (not to mention borderline child molester, given that when they met and fell in love, she was 17 and he 30!). Fantastic peek into the rural Pacific Northwest of the mid-early 1900's, check. Cringeworthy manifestation of the ugliest parts of the WASP psyche, check. One to read again and again? No. And I can see why this book seems to be out of print. Perhaps one of MacDonald's heirs would undertake excising the racism from the book and re-publishing? Then, perhaps, I would make room for it on my permanent bookshelf. As it is, back to the library it goes.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    As far as I'm concerned, this is the best book ever written. By anybody. And, go figure, it's non-fiction, a rarity for me anyway. MacDonald, as a bride in the 1920s, fell prey to her new husband's long-cherished dream of owning a chicken ranch, so off they went to the wilderness of Washington to raise chickens in a remote mountain location, where the nearest neighbors were a two-mile walk away. Frankly, living in the wilderness without electricity or indoor plumbing (she carried water from a sp As far as I'm concerned, this is the best book ever written. By anybody. And, go figure, it's non-fiction, a rarity for me anyway. MacDonald, as a bride in the 1920s, fell prey to her new husband's long-cherished dream of owning a chicken ranch, so off they went to the wilderness of Washington to raise chickens in a remote mountain location, where the nearest neighbors were a two-mile walk away. Frankly, living in the wilderness without electricity or indoor plumbing (she carried water from a spring not far from their property)would be about my idea of hell, even without the chickens, but the author manages to make it all hilarious, touching, and deeply evocative of the seasons, the environment, the neighbors and the era. It's a good, rich read that'll have just about anyone laughing out loud, and I couldn't begin to tell you how many times I've read it, or how many copies I've given away over the years. Other reviewers have commented on MacDonald's "racist" views, but I don't think that's altogether fair. She didn't much care for most of the Native Americans that lived around her in Washington, and compared them unfavorably with the Blackfoot tribes she'd known in Montana, of whom she did think highly, so it can't truly be called 'racism.' One must also remember that this was written decades before anyone had even heard of "political correctness." At the time, Native Americans were invariably depicted in literature and film as bloodthirsty savages or as dimwitted sidekicks of (Caucasian) cowboys, so MacDonald's depictions of them as ordinary individuals, as subject to criticism and personal opinion as anyone else, was actually rather ahead of her time.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    A bit old-fashioned, humorous in parts, and I totally understand why it was a best seller in 1945. It's been on my list for years and years, and I finally got around to it. I'll hunt up the old movie, with Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert as the MacDonalds, and also the first appearance of Pa and Ma Kettle.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    There are books that stay with you all your life. My mother read this to my sisters and brother and I when we were sick with the flu in England in the early 50's. I believe I have read this book about 30 times. Betty Macdonald's early biography, she wasn't someone really famous, but she had a way with words. (the book is no where near as shallow and trivial as the movie of the same name with Claudette Colbert as a ridiculous woman dressed up at a county fair) Her description of how she ended up There are books that stay with you all your life. My mother read this to my sisters and brother and I when we were sick with the flu in England in the early 50's. I believe I have read this book about 30 times. Betty Macdonald's early biography, she wasn't someone really famous, but she had a way with words. (the book is no where near as shallow and trivial as the movie of the same name with Claudette Colbert as a ridiculous woman dressed up at a county fair) Her description of how she ended up on a remote egg farm in Puget Sound, Washington area is priceless. Her childhood with a father who was a mining engineer and traveled a lot with a large family is definitely not the normal nostalgia. Her mother came from main line, and loved throwing it away to follow her husband to the remote ends of the US in turn of the 20th century. Her family was large and noisy, her paternal grandmother (Gammy)waged a constant battle with normality, all of it described in language that just makes you laugh out loud. Her marriage to an insurance man with a yen to be a chicken farmer is just another set of experiences that just leave you gasping for air as you snigger along with her. Ms. MacDonald's book is the genesis of Ma and Pa Kettle-- no where near as cartoonish as they came out in the movies, but even more layers to them and their lives. Of course most of the layers are covered in grime and chicken manure... but you should read about the real characters... I love this book

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    I haven't thoroughly enjoyed and laughed outloud with a really good book in a very long time. This book "The Egg and I" by Betty MacDonald has brought some fun and joy into my life. Betty MacDonald is Ma & Pa Kettles neighbor, and the story has to do with them moving to Washington State and they have a Chicken Ranch with many other animals and crops. She is so gifted in her way of telling her story. I don't want to be a spoiler, as this is a Book Club read, and we have some fun ladies that are a I haven't thoroughly enjoyed and laughed outloud with a really good book in a very long time. This book "The Egg and I" by Betty MacDonald has brought some fun and joy into my life. Betty MacDonald is Ma & Pa Kettles neighbor, and the story has to do with them moving to Washington State and they have a Chicken Ranch with many other animals and crops. She is so gifted in her way of telling her story. I don't want to be a spoiler, as this is a Book Club read, and we have some fun ladies that are a lot of fun and I don't want to ruin it. After we have met, I will add some extra tMacDonald was born Anne Elizabeth Campbell Bard in Boulder, Colorado. Her official birth date is given as March 26, 1908, although federal census returns seem to indicate 1907. Her family moved to the north slope of Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood in 1918, moving to the Laurelhurst neighborhood a year later and finally settling in the Roosevelt neighborhood in 1922, where she graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1924. MacDonald married Robert Eugene Heskett (1895–1951) at age 20 in July 1927;[5] they lived on a chicken farm in the Olympic Peninsula's Chimacum Valley, near Center and a few miles south of Port Townsend. She left Heskett in 1931 and returned to Seattle, where she worked at a variety of jobs to support their daughters Anne and Joan; after the divorce the ex-spouses had virtually no contact. She spent nine months at Firland Sanatorium near Seattle in 1937–1938 for treatment of tuberculosis. On April 24, 1942 she married Donald C. MacDonald (1910–1975) and moved to Vashon Island, where she wrote most of her books. The MacDonalds moved to California's Carmel Valley in 1956. MacDonald rose to fame when her first book, The Egg and I, was published in 1945. It was a bestseller and was translated into 20 languages. Based on her life on the Chimacum Valley chicken farm, the books introduced the characters Ma and Pa Kettle, who also were featured in the movie version of The Egg and I. The characters become so popular a series of nine more films were made featuring them. In the film of The Egg and I, made in 1947, MacDonald was played by Claudette Colbert. Her husband (simply called "Bob" in the book) was called "Bob MacDonald" in the film, as studio executives were keen not to raise the matter of MacDonald's divorce in the public consciousness. He was played by Fred MacMurray. Although the book was a critical and popular success at publication, in the 1970s it was criticized[by whom? for its stereotypical treatment of Native Americans. It had also been claimed that it "spawned a perception of Washington as a land of eccentric country bumpkins like Ma and Pa Kettle."[6] MacDonald's defenders point out that in the context of the 1940s such stereotyping was far more acceptable. MacDonald faced two lawsuits: by members of a family who claimed she had based the Kettles on them, and by a man who claimed he was the model for the Indian character Crowbar. One lawsuit was settled out of court, while the second went to trial in February 1951. The plaintiffs did not prevail, although the judge indicated he felt they had shown that some of the claims of defamation had merit.[7] MacDonald also published three other semi-autobiographical books: Anybody Can Do Anything, recounting her life in the Depression trying to find work; The Plague and I, describing her nine-month stay at the Firlands tuberculosis sanitarium; and Onions in the Stew, about her life on Vashon Island with her second husband and daughters during the war years. She also wrote the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series of children's books and another children's book, entitled Nancy and Plum. A posthumous collection of her writings, entitled Who Me?, was later released thoughts that are on my mind. It really is cute. Highly Recommend. MacDonald begins her book with a summary description of her childhood and family. Her father was an engineer, and moved frequently with his family throughout the West. Her mother's theory that a wife must support her husband in his career comes into play when the author marries a friend of her brother ("Bob") who soon admits that his dream is to leave his current office job and start a chicken ranch. Knowing nothing about ranching, but eager to support her husband, the author encourages the dream but is unprepared for the primitive conditions that exist on the ranch he purchases. From this "set up" the book turns to anecdotal stories that rely upon the proverbial "fish out of water" tales that pit MacDonald against her situation and her surroundings, such as the struggle to keep up with the need for water, which needs to be hand carried from a pond to the house until a tank is installed, or keeping a fire going in "Stove", or the constant care that chicks need. At one point a guest expresses envy of MacDonald and her husband, as she thinks they live a life full of fresh air and beautiful scenery, which is then followed by MacDonald pointing out that while the guest had lounged in bed that morning, she and her husband had been up before sunrise working for several hours, and then again the couple had stayed up long into the night after the guest had gone to bed. Highly Recommend and enjoy very much!!!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tig

    I should have adored this - I have loved all of Betty Macdonald's other books and I've been saving this one up as a treat. But it just didn't do it for me. There seemed much more mean-spiritness than in her other books. Of course her spikey, pointed observations are what make her writing so delightful, but barbed humour only works well when one delights in the shafts because they're aimed at a shared and justified target. And here I found myself completely out of harmony with her. There's the ob I should have adored this - I have loved all of Betty Macdonald's other books and I've been saving this one up as a treat. But it just didn't do it for me. There seemed much more mean-spiritness than in her other books. Of course her spikey, pointed observations are what make her writing so delightful, but barbed humour only works well when one delights in the shafts because they're aimed at a shared and justified target. And here I found myself completely out of harmony with her. There's the obvious atrocious racism - I'll pass over that because it's been said many times before that it's a serious flaw, possibly an unforgiveable flaw in the book (though I found interesting the idea that what she was really objecting to was the sexism). What I disliked as much as the racism, though, was the harping on about the filthiness and unappealing qualities of almost every local person she encountered. This woman has serious dirt issues, in that the whole subject terrifies her and that means we part company (I have an active dislike of obsessing over cleanliness and think a tidy house is often the sign of a bored mind). If someone has the courtesy to bring me a whole side of perfectly cooked smoked salmon, and cuts me a slice, the last thing I'm going to be writing about is how the sight of his hands revolted me: I will be enthusing about the qualities of sharing and community. BM can't stop mentioning everyone's filthy appearance, grubby, messy yards and unattractive children. She meets a woman on the shore who says it was such a nice day, she had to leave the housework and bring her children out to clam dig. Instead of being pleased to find a kindred spirit, BM immediately sets in to comment on the woman's dusty braids, holey trousers, filthy children who are all 'drooling idiots' (*really* offensive). I just found it so unpleasant - this is a farming community for heaven's sake: of course people have dirty clothes. I suppose in the end all I'm saying is her schtick isn't mine and I found the book sneery. I also get irritated by people who don't raise objections or negotiate with their partners when things seem unfair but then do that passive aggressive thing of letting everyone around know what a tough time they're having. I don't blame her for moaning about the farming - anyone would - but she makes sure we know every time her husband fails her in some way or forces her to do something she doesn't want. Either support him or ship out, I'd say (and I gather she shipped out, which seemed a very good idea to me). I wonder if part of the success of this book is that it taps into the American pioneer dream in a way that brings it closer for your average city type ie sassy, snappy city girl used to all mod cons takes on Ma Ingalls' role and gives us her sharp-eyed take on it? It clearly is a long-time favourite of many readers. Well, I'm not American, I don't obsess over hygiene and I live in a rural community where acceptance and warmth is an important part of getting along, and clearly none of those things helped. I wonder if I like the Plague and I so much because, being set in the sterile conditions of a hospital, it was not possible for BM to get bitchy over dirt? But I also think in that, and in Onions in the Stew she finds a happier balance of enjoying the eccentric types around her and finding common ground with some, while also mercilessly skewering pretension and meanness. Here, too many of her targets seemed deserving of a little more understanding. I did like the mountains, I must say, and the descriptions of the food (but oh, how she rubbed in it that SHE was a gourmet and everyone else ate atrociously).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    It took me a few pages to get into this book, but once I did I couldn't stop. It's semi-autobiographical and written in stream-of-consciousness, as Betty tells you the story of her childhood and how she ended up married to a man who dreamed of being a chicken farmer. (She thought she was marrying someone whose passion was insurance sales. She was wrong.) Betty is hilarious and clever with an extremely dry wit as well as a keen curiosity. Everything about her adventures in chicken farming fascina It took me a few pages to get into this book, but once I did I couldn't stop. It's semi-autobiographical and written in stream-of-consciousness, as Betty tells you the story of her childhood and how she ended up married to a man who dreamed of being a chicken farmer. (She thought she was marrying someone whose passion was insurance sales. She was wrong.) Betty is hilarious and clever with an extremely dry wit as well as a keen curiosity. Everything about her adventures in chicken farming fascinates her, and then becomes yet another burden she must bear with tart humor. Four am wake up calls, bears, strange neighbors, bleak weather, the endless farm and housework, and the general horribleness of chickens are all narrated in her rapid-fire style. As she points out, and then is seconded by her brother-in-law (who quickly becomes her favorite family member), the problem with chickens is that you feed them and care for them and they don't even acknowledge you. Even cats show more affection! But Betty's husband, Bob, is completely enamored of every part of chicken ranching, from the early hours to the back-breaking labor to the drunken neighbors letting their cows loose on the countryside. So Betty is the straight-man in their marriage, and in the book, the only one seeing the strangeness and humor in it all. I grew up as the hugest fan of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books, which were also written by MacDonald, and as a teen I saw the movie, The Egg & I (which is a gem), but didn't realize until a couple of years ago that a) it was originally a book, and b) it was the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lady's story! What a delight to finally read this book, and find it to be just as fabulous as her children's books! PS- My edition doesn't seem to be here on Goodreads. It's the 100th anniversary of Betty MacDonald's birth edition, with a photograph of an enormous egg on the cover. I really loved it, because it has a forward by her two daughters about the sudden, shocking fame their family encountered, and was very charmingly written, in the exact same style as the book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ivonne Rovira

    I adored Betty MacDonald’s four Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books when I was a child — so much so that I tracked them down to read to my own children when they came along. So I was ready to laugh uproariously with MacDonald’s famous memoir The Egg and I. And don’t get me wrong: Parts of the book are hilarious: her paternal grandmother Gammy, the travails of the chicken ranch, and the plight of being the intellectual but plain younger sister. But modern-day readers will be taken aback by the antiquated exp I adored Betty MacDonald’s four Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books when I was a child — so much so that I tracked them down to read to my own children when they came along. So I was ready to laugh uproariously with MacDonald’s famous memoir The Egg and I. And don’t get me wrong: Parts of the book are hilarious: her paternal grandmother Gammy, the travails of the chicken ranch, and the plight of being the intellectual but plain younger sister. But modern-day readers will be taken aback by the antiquated expectations for wives and the acceptable level of racism toward Native Americans in the 1920s. It’s easy to forget how widespread the beliefs were that wives should kowtow to their husbands’ every whim — no matter how imprudent or disastrous — and that a proud people that whites had slaughtered and conquered were shifty and lazy. So in a way, The Egg and I serves as a time capsule that reveals how far we’ve come. And it provides a glimmer of hope that, in 90 years, Americans will have evolved sufficiently that they will be dumbstruck that mass school shootings or gunning down a black young man in the back with impunity or poisoning the water supply of an entire city or sending Auschwitz-themed tweets to Jewish journalists or threatening to rape and murder female journalists could ever have been possible.

  12. 4 out of 5

    thefourthvine

    Betty MacDonald (author of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series) tells the story of her early, disastrous marriage to a chicken farmer. She has a great narrative voice, a fabulous sense of humor, and a way with an anecdote. Annnnnnd she's also racist as hell. Which pretty much ruins a lot of the book. So, FYI: interesting, funny memoir of a way of farming that is now totally gone, in a part of the country not many people write about. With a giant helping of open, unapologetic racism, of the Native-Amer Betty MacDonald (author of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series) tells the story of her early, disastrous marriage to a chicken farmer. She has a great narrative voice, a fabulous sense of humor, and a way with an anecdote. Annnnnnd she's also racist as hell. Which pretty much ruins a lot of the book. So, FYI: interesting, funny memoir of a way of farming that is now totally gone, in a part of the country not many people write about. With a giant helping of open, unapologetic racism, of the Native-Americans-are-actually-subhuman variety. Read with caution.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Felisa Rosa

    A memoir of rural life that lit up the best-seller lists in 1945, The Egg and I is the story of a young bride in the late 1920s who gets dragged to the woods of Washington by her enthusiastic and unsympathetic husband. Like Shirley Jackson's Life Among the Savages, which I just read, MacDonald's memoir captures the life of an overwhelmed housewife with a keen mind, a sharp sense of humor, and an unusual and subversive vision of her time. These were women who were trying to be good wives and moth A memoir of rural life that lit up the best-seller lists in 1945, The Egg and I is the story of a young bride in the late 1920s who gets dragged to the woods of Washington by her enthusiastic and unsympathetic husband. Like Shirley Jackson's Life Among the Savages, which I just read, MacDonald's memoir captures the life of an overwhelmed housewife with a keen mind, a sharp sense of humor, and an unusual and subversive vision of her time. These were women who were trying to be good wives and mothers, but who didn't always like the role they were pushed into, and said so, wittily. Both writers let the darkness creep in at the edges of otherwise breezy stories, which give the books a poignancy one might not expect from the 'harried housewife' genre. MacDonald is a strong writer, who captures the sometimes creepy beauty of the Northwestern wilderness vividly. Her descriptions of the couple's hillbilly neighbors are funny, if a bit cruel at times. Particularly amusing are her horrified descriptions of the dull and unhealthy food (pork belly and boiled macaroni) her neighbors ate on a regular basis, despite their access to fabulous homegrown vegetables and wild foods. She was evidently far ahead of her time in regards to food: she writes descriptions of the bounty of their table that would make a modern foodie grown in hunger and jealousy. Wild mushrooms, fresh mussels, fresh oysters, fresh cream...Unfortunately, she was not ahead of her time in regard to her take on the local Native Americans: if anything, her descriptions, though intended to be humorous, are unusually mean-spirited. However, over time I have come to accept that works and ideas are best judged in the context of their time, and I'm pretty sure MacDonald would have had a different take (or at least had the good sense to keep her mouth shut) had she been writing today. Just as I have to grudgingly appreciate Jefferson for some of his ideas, if not all of them, I can't discount a sharp writer for espousing one view I don't agree with. Did I just compare Betty MacDonald to Thomas Jefferson? Yes I did. Anyway...a highly entertaining read if you can ignore that fatal flaw.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I bought this on a whim from a local charity shop, based on the title, cover and blurb. MacDonald and her husband started a rural Washington State chicken farm in the 1940s. Her account of her failure to become the perfect farm wife is rather hilarious. The voice reminds me of Doreen Tovey’s: mild exasperation at the drama caused by household animals, neighbors, and inanimate objects (“Stove” is her nemesis). The only unfortunately dated element is her terrible snobbishness towards rednecks and I bought this on a whim from a local charity shop, based on the title, cover and blurb. MacDonald and her husband started a rural Washington State chicken farm in the 1940s. Her account of her failure to become the perfect farm wife is rather hilarious. The voice reminds me of Doreen Tovey’s: mild exasperation at the drama caused by household animals, neighbors, and inanimate objects (“Stove” is her nemesis). The only unfortunately dated element is her terrible snobbishness towards rednecks and “Indians.” [Note: the sequel, The Plague and I, is about MacDonald’s time in a sanatorium recovering from tuberculosis!] Favorite passages: “Gathering eggs would be like one continual Easter morning if the hens would just be obliging and get off the nests. Co-operation, however, is not a chickenly characteristic and so at egg-gathering time every nest was overflowing with hen, feet planted, and a shoot-if-you-must-this-old-grey-head look in her eye.” “In the country Sunday is the day on which you do exactly as much work as you do on other days but feel guilty all of the time you are doing it because Sunday is a day of rest.” “I really tried to like chickens. But I couldn’t get close to the hen either physically or spiritually, and by the end of the second spring I hated everything about the chicken but the egg.”

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mary Deborde

    I have to say, this is my favorite book of all time. First introduced to Betty's semi-fictionalized memoirs in the late 60s (via my mother's book collection), I've since made it a point to search out the vintage printings of all her works. I tend to read this book once a year or so, usually during the winter months, because there is something familiar and cozy about The Egg and I - like a pair of well worn slippers. It's a trusted friend I turn to now & then, to bask in the whimsical adventures of I have to say, this is my favorite book of all time. First introduced to Betty's semi-fictionalized memoirs in the late 60s (via my mother's book collection), I've since made it a point to search out the vintage printings of all her works. I tend to read this book once a year or so, usually during the winter months, because there is something familiar and cozy about The Egg and I - like a pair of well worn slippers. It's a trusted friend I turn to now & then, to bask in the whimsical adventures of a farm girl during simpler times. While not without its poignant moments, the overall flavor is a gently muted humor well mixed in a pot bubbling over with unforgettable characters such as Ma & Pa Kettle, door to door salesmen, and unrecalcitrant chickens. No bookshelf is complete without The Egg and I.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    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 g 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.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lee Anne

    The author of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series also wrote several memoirs, this being the most famous. It's the book that introduced Ma and Pa Kettle to the world. Read through today's eyes, it's so horribly racist regarding Native Americans that I can't recommend it in my job, but it's a funny and warm book regardless. I guess that's like saying, "It's a great story, minus the Klan meetings"--it's not that bad, but I can't set the racism aside, and...I don't know. I can't imagine following my newl The author of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series also wrote several memoirs, this being the most famous. It's the book that introduced Ma and Pa Kettle to the world. Read through today's eyes, it's so horribly racist regarding Native Americans that I can't recommend it in my job, but it's a funny and warm book regardless. I guess that's like saying, "It's a great story, minus the Klan meetings"--it's not that bad, but I can't set the racism aside, and...I don't know. I can't imagine following my newly-wedded husband's dream of buying a chicken farm on a mountainside in Washington State. No plumbing, no electricity, bad stove (therefore little heat)--it's like a nightmare for me, for whom roughing it is a heated/air-conditioned/cable tv having cabin with a shower and no bathtub. I plan on digging up her other books, especially her recounting of the time she spent in a tuberculosis hospital. She's a talented, but flawed, writer.

  18. 5 out of 5

    A. L.

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I liked this book. It wasn’t great literature, but it was enjoyable. And the author, Betty MacDonald, has a special warm place in my heart as the author of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books. Some of the other reviewers had commented on not liking her complaining about the neighbors, the homestead, the rancher lifestyle, and all I can say to that is I feel like maybe we weren’t reading the same book. The crap that she put up with in the (relatively) modern age was unbelievable to me. Living in a house I liked this book. It wasn’t great literature, but it was enjoyable. And the author, Betty MacDonald, has a special warm place in my heart as the author of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books. Some of the other reviewers had commented on not liking her complaining about the neighbors, the homestead, the rancher lifestyle, and all I can say to that is I feel like maybe we weren’t reading the same book. The crap that she put up with in the (relatively) modern age was unbelievable to me. Living in a house with no windows, no running water, no heat, in Washington, surrounded by chickens and wild animals? No. I’m afraid I’d have gone back home far sooner. Especially after she is virtually assaulted by a drunken friend of her husband’s and his response is “Aw, he didn’t mean nothing.” Really, she’s a helluva woman for not having shot her husband. Yes, there are very ugly descriptions of the local Native Americans; however, being that this was the 1920’s, written in the 1930’s, PC didn’t exist. Also, she’s telling her experience as she saw it. After reading this book, I would read her other books, and feel like Betty MacDonald would’ve been a fun kind of woman to know, the kind able to see the humor in any situation.

  19. 4 out of 5

    MAP

    This book was written in 1945 and follows Betty MacDonald's adventures in the 1920s living on a chicken farm with her new husband in Washington State. The book is based in reality, but characters have been melded, warped, squished together, and changed for humor's sake. The book is, first and foremost, and humor book, and I will admit there were several laugh out loud moments, especially near the beginning. MacDonald certainly has a sly wit about her and since this was her first try at writing, I This book was written in 1945 and follows Betty MacDonald's adventures in the 1920s living on a chicken farm with her new husband in Washington State. The book is based in reality, but characters have been melded, warped, squished together, and changed for humor's sake. The book is, first and foremost, and humor book, and I will admit there were several laugh out loud moments, especially near the beginning. MacDonald certainly has a sly wit about her and since this was her first try at writing, I certainly want to seek out The Plague and I, which was written later and probably more well-polished. Despite its humor, there are 3 reasons why this did not get 4 or 5 stars: 1. The random, insulting things said about Native Americans should be taken in their context, but they are still uncomfortable to read for a 21st century reader 2. Every once in a while, the grammar and wording was bizarre and completely nonsensicle. I'm not sure if it was an editorial problem, or what, but every once in a while I would read a sentence over and over and over and just think "That's not English. What on earth is she trying to say?" 3. By the last 70 or so pages of this book, I was pretty ready for it to end. In my opinion, a good solid 4 or 5 star book should leave you sad to see the end, not relieved. Overall, I would recommend this book, but I would say check it out from your library (it probably has it -- mine did) and then only buy it if you really love it and want it for your collection.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Collins

    Betty McDonald’s famous memoir about the years she lived on an isolated chicken farm in Washington state in the late 1920’s. It’s very funny, and she goes into fascinating detail about the relentless work she and her husband did to build the farm from scratch and then run it. Although she writes with great humor, she’s candid about her intense loneliness, and the fact that she “alternated between delirious happiness and black despair”. She was angry about the fact that she had to do all of the “w Betty McDonald’s famous memoir about the years she lived on an isolated chicken farm in Washington state in the late 1920’s. It’s very funny, and she goes into fascinating detail about the relentless work she and her husband did to build the farm from scratch and then run it. Although she writes with great humor, she’s candid about her intense loneliness, and the fact that she “alternated between delirious happiness and black despair”. She was angry about the fact that she had to do all of the “women’s work” - cooking and cleaning - on top of all of the rest of the farm chores, and she was immensely frustrated by the futility of the never-ending washing and cleaning. Bob had been a Marine in World War I and instead of being shell-shocked he carried home a fixation that a helmetful of water was enough to wash anything, including blankets, and on Monday morning he would say cheerfully at breakfast, “Going to wash today?” and I would answer hopefully, “Yes, it’s going to be a HUGE ENORMOUS washing!” And so Bob would go whistling down through the orchard to the spring and bring back about four tablespoonfuls in the bottom of each bucket and then disappear into the woods where he remained incommunicado until lunch…. The water was so hard it should have been chipped out of the spring and even when mixed 40-60 with soap produced nothing but a greasy scum and after a day spent scrubbing clothes in that liquid mineral I could peel the skin of my hands like gloves….Bob was irritatingly casual about my washing and ironing and was continually putting on clean clothes, when he could get them away from me. I got to be just like a dog with a bone over anything I had washed and ironed…. It was just that I wanted him to be conscious of the fact that it took a terrific amount of back-breaking labor to keep us in clean clothes and occasionally to comment on it. She and her husband seldom went to the movies, for several reasons, including the fact that: I became so biased that no matter how melodramatic the plot, I watched only to see if the heroine did any work or if she seemed to have all the conveniences of modern life. If she didn’t work and seemed to have plenty of opportunity to take big hot steamy fragrant baths, I lost all interest in the plot. Under such circumstances who gave a damn who got the man. She does not fail to note the glories of their farm, along with the work. Concerning spring: We awoke one moring to a new Sears, Roebuck catalogue; baby chickens, thousands of them; a new little red-haired baby girl; little yellow goslings; two baby pigs; a puppy; two kittens; a little heifer calf; fruit trees snapping into bloom all over the place; a newly plowed plot for the biggest garden in the world; stream and lakes brimming; trilliums, wild violets both purple and yellow, camas and starflowers carpeting the woods; fences to mend; seeds to plant; seed catalogues to dream through; Government bulletins to choke down and digest; and no rest ever any more…. I was so ebullient from the sun and warmth that even the fact that I had to dogtrot through the long days, in order barely to scratch the surface of my thousands of new duties, failed to dampen my ardor. Her experience with the local Indian population was very negative and drove her to make terribly racist remarks. There are also complaints about her treatment of her neighbors, “Ma and Pa Kettle” - but while she certainly describes Mr. Kettle as criminally shiftless, she liked Mrs. Kettle and admired many things about her. I look forward to reading the rest of her books.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    I remember in 1946 my mother reading “The egg and I” to my sister and I. I remember enjoying the book and when I saw it released in audio format I decided to read it again. The book was released in October of 1945 and it was a quirky, semi-autobiographical book about a young woman in the Pacific Northwest during the early decades of the twentieth century. The book opens with her childhood but most of the book is about her marriage in 1927 and her life on a chicken farm in the Olympic Peninsula. W I remember in 1946 my mother reading “The egg and I” to my sister and I. I remember enjoying the book and when I saw it released in audio format I decided to read it again. The book was released in October of 1945 and it was a quirky, semi-autobiographical book about a young woman in the Pacific Northwest during the early decades of the twentieth century. The book opens with her childhood but most of the book is about her marriage in 1927 and her life on a chicken farm in the Olympic Peninsula. We grew up on a farm so the book brought back memories. The book is full of humor; some of it farm people will relate to more than a city dweller. MacDonald made the other people in the book into composite characters with fictional names to protect their friends and acquaintances’ identities. She created the Kettle family and in 1947 they were made into a movie. Several people filed lawsuit claiming the book damaged their reputations but they all lost. The book is well written and most enjoyable. Be prepared to laugh while reading. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. The book is narrated by heather Henderson.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Betty MacDonald is one of the funniest writers I have ever come across. Her stories about the American west during the early 20th Century and the stories (including many mishaps) of running a chicken farm in Port Townsend (which is a wonderful little town in my region) were so fun to read. She feels like someone you would love to meet in person. She has a way with words that is like no one I have ever come across, it was wry and endlessly witty. Beware, she has some very insensitive things to say Betty MacDonald is one of the funniest writers I have ever come across. Her stories about the American west during the early 20th Century and the stories (including many mishaps) of running a chicken farm in Port Townsend (which is a wonderful little town in my region) were so fun to read. She feels like someone you would love to meet in person. She has a way with words that is like no one I have ever come across, it was wry and endlessly witty. Beware, she has some very insensitive things to say about Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest. This book was published in the 1940's so I decided to take it with a grain of salt. I think her intention was to be witty but it comes off pretty badly. Clearly she had some bad experiences and probably would have related them differently if it had been published today.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Thought this was hysterical. Autobiographical account of living on an egg farm in a hill-billy part of Washington. NOT PC. Humor a little down on self sometimes, like Charlie Brown. Funny and interesting snapshot of life in the 1920/1930's in the back woods.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alison Hardtmann

    And then winter settled down and I realized that defeat, like morale, is a lot of little things. Betty MacDonald remembers the first two years of her marriage, in which she and her husband create and run a chicken ranch located in the wilds of Washington state. Originally published in 1945, the writing style reminded me of Jean Webster (who wrote Daddy-Long-Legs), with its mix of charm and dry wit. MacDonald finds the humor in any situation and is as willing to poke fun at herself as she is at th And then winter settled down and I realized that defeat, like morale, is a lot of little things. Betty MacDonald remembers the first two years of her marriage, in which she and her husband create and run a chicken ranch located in the wilds of Washington state. Originally published in 1945, the writing style reminded me of Jean Webster (who wrote Daddy-Long-Legs), with its mix of charm and dry wit. MacDonald finds the humor in any situation and is as willing to poke fun at herself as she is at the people around her. She has to fight to adjust to rural living and to the hardships and constant work involved, but she's game. There is one aspect that mars this outrageously delightful memoir; MacDonald mixes in a large helping of racism aimed at the local Native Americans, which culminates in her being glad that their land was being taken from them. Even her husband asks her to take it down a notch, and given that the flaws she sees in them are exactly the same flaws she sees in many of the men around her, it's surprising that she never notices that she only sees white people as individually flawed. I'd like to give her the benefit of simply being a product of her own time, but as her own husband asks her to take it down a notch, it seems she was bigoted even by the standards of her time. I loved this book until I didn't. I can see why it's been allowed to sink into obscurity and at the same time I'm sorry about that -- it's such a vivid, insightfully rendered picture of a specific time and place.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    Humorous, but quite dated. There were moments of chuckles, but also feelings of going on too long with lists of chores and hardships. But maybe that was the point of writing a story about the difficulties of life in a remote place with no modern conveniences. She was courageous, that's for sure. I've always heard of the movie, but now will plan to see it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    This is a book I read eons ago but forgot to record when Goodreads came along. I loved this delightful, laugh-out-loud funny, heartwarming book. I should read it again since laughter is MUCH needed in 2019.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dav

    . The Egg and I A memoir, book # 1, by Betty MacDonald, 1907 to 1958. (First published 1945, about 288 pages and semi-autobiographical) OVERVIEW: Betty McDonald's first book about her adventures as a young wife on a chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State... Betty lived with her first husband [Robert Heskett] near Chimacum, Washington--a newlywed doing her best to adjust to and help operate their small chicken farm, from 1927 to 1931. The book was made into a movie (1947) and the Ma . The Egg and I A memoir, book # 1, by Betty MacDonald, 1907 to 1958. (First published 1945, about 288 pages and semi-autobiographical) OVERVIEW: Betty McDonald's first book about her adventures as a young wife on a chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State... Betty lived with her first husband [Robert Heskett] near Chimacum, Washington--a newlywed doing her best to adjust to and help operate their small chicken farm, from 1927 to 1931. The book was made into a movie (1947) and the Ma and Pa Kettle series was based on characters from the book. Some of the characters in the book were developed from a composite of actual residents of Chimacum. And some of the residents filed lawsuits over how they were portrayed--likely to cash in on the book and film's success. The name of some people and places are different. Some sources say distances and locations, etc are altered as well. This edition begins with an introduction / forward written by Betty's daughters in 1987: Anne MacDonald Evans & Joan MacDonald Keil. It covers details of the family during the time of the book's publication (1945), when they're living on Vashon Island (Washington State). Betty is married to second hubby Don MacDonald and her two kids (from her first marriage) are teens (Anne & Joan). With the book's success Betty became famous and soon fans pursued them, even at their remote island home. This new income allowed them to indulge in some items on their wish list and to vacation in style. . The book begins with Betty's Mother tutoring her daughters on marriage and husbands. "...it is a wife's bounden duty to see that her husband is happy in his work." For Betty's parents this supportive devotion seemed to work well. Their Father (Darsie Bard) was a mining engineer and he traveled extensively, often being away for long periods of time. They camped and pioneered and lived all over the country, having great grand adventures. Living in Mexico for a time, they experienced earthquakes. While the parents were out adventuring, Betty and her siblings stayed home with Gammy (grandma), Father's eccentric and beloved mother. The housegirls would arrive in the morning and were often late. [The author doesn't say it, but they seemed to have lived an early 20th century pampered life.] Betty, would grow up to marry Bob the happy chicken farmer; about 13 years her senior. Living a chicken-filled life on the Pacific Coast of Washington state: "I couldn't learn to love or to know chickens or Indians...living in that vast wilderness..." The first part of the book is taken up with: family travels; the different cities where Betty and her sisters and only brother were born and various details of family life. Some of these included: living in big houses with plenty of room for mom & dad's frequent house guests; their Irish girls who did the cooking and the cursing; summer camping with their adventuring parents and avoiding the camp-mauling bears. In Butte, Montana, where Mary became the first born (1904), prolific minerals made millionaires from the mining industry. Betty was born in Boulder, Colorado (1907) and her brother Cleve in Idaho (1908). Back to Butte, where Dorthea (Dede) Bard was born (1915), when Betty was a second-grader. Alison will be born in Washington State, 1920. In Butte, Betty and her siblings are dazzled by the Blackfoot Indians, adorned with beads and feathers: tall copper-colored braves, mounted on ponies as they rode slowly through town, followed by a squaw on foot, toting a papoose. Betty contrasts the Blackfoot with the Indians she'll meet in Washington State during her chicken farming misadventure: the "...little red brother" of the Pacific Coast was "...squat and mud colored,...apt to be found slouched in a Model T, a toothpick clenched between his yellow teeth, a drunken leer on his flat face." At age 9, Betty and her family left their pioneering days and moved to Seattle, where the kids received an influx of cultural improvement: lessons in French, ballet, tennis, excetera. They moved to a big house and loved their many animals, house pets to horses. The sad year happened when Betty was 12. Her father died of pneumonia. To economize many of their lessons had to be dropped and they were sent to public school. Mom's snooty New York mother, Deargrandmother as the kids were to address her, came to comfort her daughter and to "...make our lives a living hell." High school and college followed. Mary, the oldest, attended parties, made friends and became very popular. Betty got high marks in school and turned into a chubby, honor roll student. At 17 and a sophomore in college, Betty was charmed by an older guy, a friend of her brother's. Bob Heskett was tall, blue-eyed, handsome and surprising to Betty, he liked her. At 18 she married Bob--he about 31. With mom's training in her head: support your hubby's career choice, she agrees with Bob's decision to leave the insurance business and become a chicken farmer. [A discrepancy? I don't know. She was born in 1907 & supposedly married Bob in 1927, wouldn't that be age 20? But the book says she was 18 when wed.] Across the Sound by ferry, then a long drive inland to the Olympic Mountains, where they find "the little place" Bob has his heart set on: a run-down farm on 40 acres with a log house, outhouse, barn, chicken houses, etc.--all for only $450. No electricity (just candles and kerosene lamps) and no indoor plumbing. The newlyweds do all their own DIY repairs, clearing land, plowing, planting, chicken farm preparation and a myriad of other chores: grueling tasks for a previously pampered lady raised with servants. The hard work and Bob's expertise pays off. The farm is a success. Much of the rest of Betty's memoir deals with her arduous life married to an amiable, but dedicated chicken rancher. They follow a demanding schedule: up at 4am; raising hundreds (thousands?) of chickens; caring for other farm animals (pigs, cow, etc); tending a huge garden and canning everything. No rustic farm is complete without predators and pests. Cougars like chickens too, so Bob gets help from Indian pals, expert trackers. A bear stalks their woods and a skunk cuddles up to Stove in the kitchen, driving Betty outside. Chickens get lice and so on. Family came to visit, exclaiming over the mountainous beauty and farm life, but having no idea of the toil it takes. Betty corresponds with many, including Deargrandmother who addresses Betty as Child Bride. Then their first winter in the Olympic Mountains--Washington State's rainforest: rain, rain and more rain, plus the isolation. She is from a big family that always had domestic help and here it's just the two of them. Bob has befriended many in the area: other farmers, moonshiners, local Indians, even people down at the coastal dock (Dock-town, which may be the story's name for Port Ludlow). At times the author can be quite negative, malicious. There's also plenty of wit and humor. She calls her troublesome, wood-burning kitchen stove, Stove and anthropomorphizes it's shortcomings as cantankerous moods. She's critical of the Indians and had a frightening experience when two of them drunkenly came in the house while Bob was away, acting out and only leaving when she pulled a gun. She says, "The Coast Indian is squat, bow-legged, swarthy, flat-faced, broad-nosed, dirty, diseased, ignorant and tricky. There were few exceptions among the many we knew." The Indian pals of Bob harassed him for the untoward kindness he showed to Betty. "They had no use for women"--telling Bob to knock her down and berate her as needed, just as they did regularly to their own wives. "Little red brothers or not, I didn't like Indians and the more I saw of them, the more I thought, what an excellent thing it was to take that beautiful country away from them. They had come a long way from Hiawatha." Soon she has her first baby, Anne and their moonshiner pal and others, baby sit on occasion. Bob and Betty do get out once in a great while: for a dance, a party, the County Fair, etc. We also get to know some odd ball neighbors and those in the nearby town. There's a librarian that doesn't readily loan out books and Maw and Paw Kettle who have 15 kids--some still at home. Paw may be a ne'er-do-well and their home in need of repair (and cleaning), but Maw is pleasant, foul-mouthed, blames the US government for all their foibles and teaches Betty to bake delectable bread and to piece quilt. Paw begged and borrowed for groceries, supplies and laborers: "He didn't care what humiliations, what insults it entailed--it was better than working. And he caused a fire that burned their barn--the advancing flames threatening Betty's ranch. Everyone came to fight the fire, but it was the rain that ended it for good. Later, winter again approaches: "Rain, rain, rain, moaning winds and loneliness. " Wet: "...from the first of Sept. until the last of June..." The book ends with good news just before Christmas. Bob found a chicken farm to purchase near Seattle, with a modern house and all the amenities: indoor plumbing, electricity, linoleum floors, the works. There's also a buyer for their rustic mountain ranch. If they buy it, Betty has high hopes a modernized farm will mean they can sleep in, maybe as late as 7:30AM, but Bob says, "...chickens have to be fed...the earlier you feed them, the sooner they start to lay." "A man in the chicken business is not his own boss at all. The hen is the boss." .. Mostly well-written and charming, a delight to read. Some of her caustic comments from 1945 may seem off-putting in 21st century America. The Betty MacDonald Memoirs 1. • The Egg and I. (1945) 2. The Plague and I. (1948) "...her year in a sanatorium (1938/39) just outside Seattle battling the "White Plague." MacDonald uses her offbeat humor to make the most of her time in the TB sanatorium..." 3. Anybody Can Do Anything. (1950) "After surviving both the failed chicken farm - and marriage - immortalized in 'The Egg and I', Betty MacDonald returns to live with her mother and desperately searches to find a job to support her two young daughters...during the Great Depression." 4. Onions in the Stew. (1955) Betty presents the story of her two daughters and second husband (MacDonald) living on a remote island in Puget Sound (Washington State's ocean water inlet) and commuting to Seattle by ferry. ■ Note In the 2016 biography, " Looking for Betty MacDonald " by Paula J. Becker, the author reveals Betty's sanitizing of her real life on that rural chicken farm with husband Robert "Bob" Heskett. She made it palatable for her 1940s audience. Unfortunately, the real Bob became very abusive, a moonshiner and drunk. Also Betty altered other facts and details to enhance her storytelling. So, it's semi-autobiographical (dealing partly with the writer's own life but also containing fictional elements), but still an informative and enjoyable tale . OVERVIEW of Looking for Betty MacDonald: "Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald's archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona." .

  28. 5 out of 5

    Zora

    While the racism here is troubling, as others reviewing here have said, in this 1945 "light comedy" nonfiction, the sexism horrified me more. This is the bitterly funny (and not so funny) autobiography of a woman who has signed up for a form a marital slavery to a wannabe chicken farmer, in which the husband works her to exhaustion and insults her while doing so, and she increasingly accepts that as what she deserves/the best she can get, while displacing her unexpressed anger about it outward t While the racism here is troubling, as others reviewing here have said, in this 1945 "light comedy" nonfiction, the sexism horrified me more. This is the bitterly funny (and not so funny) autobiography of a woman who has signed up for a form a marital slavery to a wannabe chicken farmer, in which the husband works her to exhaustion and insults her while doing so, and she increasingly accepts that as what she deserves/the best she can get, while displacing her unexpressed anger about it outward toward her less-educated neighbors and the local Native population, as "humor." She admits to isolation and loneliness, but her anger doesn't let her connect soulfully with anyone around her to relieve it. None of that is funny to me despite her sharp, angry wit; it's a sad story. (She got the crap sued out of her by the neighbors she maligned, according to Wikipedia, so maybe this is not the best way to manage your marital misery.) What is amusing is all presented in the early few chapters about her youth. Her grandmother was terrific, and at some point, she says, if she had written her grandmother the truth about her horrible married life, granny would have demanded she get a divorce. Too bad she didn't do exactly that. If you're of a mind, pick it up at the library, skip the first chapter with its summary racism, read the chapters up until she meets the older man who sees his new wife as a form of indentured servant, and put it down before you get as creeped out as I. There's a lot of apologist reviewing about how at the time, the racism was just how things were. This isn't so, and I've read a lot of humor writing of the era that has none.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Ferrier

    I loved Betty MacDonald's Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series when I was a kid and learned only recently that she was equally famous for her memoirs, most notably The Egg and I. Written about her years as a young bride living on a Washington state chicken farm that had neither electricity nor running water, the book definitely takes you back to a time and place that no longer exists in America, and I found it fascinating. Although the book was a huge hit when it came out in the late 1940s, it was later cri I loved Betty MacDonald's Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series when I was a kid and learned only recently that she was equally famous for her memoirs, most notably The Egg and I. Written about her years as a young bride living on a Washington state chicken farm that had neither electricity nor running water, the book definitely takes you back to a time and place that no longer exists in America, and I found it fascinating. Although the book was a huge hit when it came out in the late 1940s, it was later criticized for its anti-Native American sentiment, and it's true MacDonald pulled no punches when it came to her negative feelings about the Native American population living around her. However, I believe it's important that books like this one remain in print because it really showcases how different things were at the time she published the book -- The fact that millions of readers wholly embraced this book shows me how far we've come as a culture, just in the time span of a few generations. Since I read these kinds of memoirs specifically for their very personal takes on history, I find value in learning about the negative aspects of the times as well as the positive ones. Read this book if you're a fan of American history via personal memoir, particularly from a woman's perspective. It's very entertaining, although the amount of labor she had to endure every single day made me tired each time I read the book!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    I really had no idea what this book was but I knew it was old and I heard it was funny. When it arrived from the library, I saw that the copy was from the early 60's. It smelled musty and the pages were yellowed. The spine cracked when I opened it. Heaven. I had a feeling it would be wonderful and I was right. About midway through reading, I realized this is an autobiography about Betty MacDonald's life on a chicken farm in the state of Washington. That made all the stories even more laugh out lo I really had no idea what this book was but I knew it was old and I heard it was funny. When it arrived from the library, I saw that the copy was from the early 60's. It smelled musty and the pages were yellowed. The spine cracked when I opened it. Heaven. I had a feeling it would be wonderful and I was right. About midway through reading, I realized this is an autobiography about Betty MacDonald's life on a chicken farm in the state of Washington. That made all the stories even more laugh out loud funny, knowing that they actually happened, knowing that Maw and Paw Kettle actually existed, and Birdie Hicks and her peppy mother, and Mrs. Weatherby. Such great characters. I loved the chicken ranch and the orchard and the forest. The farmhouse seemed so cozy. And all the chickens and animals! Living on a farm sounds like it would be peaceful and wonderful. But Betty MacDonald brings all the hard work to light. Waking up at 4am to start feeding the animals. All the cleaning and planting, cooking and canning. (I loved the pressure cooker chapter!) It's not all fun and games. But the story was wonderful and if Betty's other books are as funny as this one, then I can't wait.

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