Still Life with Chickens by Catherine Goldhammer

Still Life with Chickens: Starting over in a house by the sea: a memoir

“In this lovely, unconventional memoir, Catherine Goldhammer wakes at midlife to find herself newly separated and several tax brackets poorer, forced by circumstance to move from the affluent New England suburb of her daughter’s childhood into a new, more rustic life by the sea. Against all logic, partly to please her daughter and partly for reasons not clear to her at the time, she begins this year of transition by purchasing six baby chickens—whose job, she comes to suspect, is to pull her and her daughter forward, out of one life and into another.”

So says the flap copy of this lovely little book, given to me by a coworker who knows me well 🙂 It’s the kind of book you settle down with on the couch, a cup of tea at your elbow, and spend an hour with like talking with a friend.

There was only one thing I disagreed with in her narrative–her conviction that chickens are basically silly and mindless. They aren’t. They’re smart, trainable, and learn your language and patterns much more quickly than you learn theirs. All chickens have emotions, from annoyance to distress to love and contentment. Anyone who disagrees is simply not paying attention (Ms. Goldhammer, I don’t mean you).

What I liked best about this book was Goldhammer’s sincere affection for and care of her chickens, even when they drove her crazy with their housing needs. Yes, they need to be cared for. And sometimes that was the only thing that got her out of bed. In the middle of a life change, the chickens changed her life.

Yep. They’ll do that.

1 thought on “Still Life with Chickens by Catherine Goldhammer”

  1. MaryAnn DiorioMaryAnn Diorio

    Hi, Adina,

    I grew up with chickens and related well to your post. Despite their occasional capriciousness, my chickens were faithful friends. Our pre-dawn meetings when I collected their warm eggs are among the most vivid of my childhood memories. Yes, chickens will change one’s life for the better. Happy is the person who experiences them.

    Love to JoJo! 🙂


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