The Egg and I

by Betty Bard MacDonald

Hardcover, 1945




Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott [1945]


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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member MerryMary
This book is, I'm glad to say, just as funny as I remember. A nice, well-brought up (for the most part) young lady marries a seemingly normal man, and finds that his life's dream is to raise chickens in the Pacific northwest. She does her best to be a Dutiful Wife, and take an interest in chickens,
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rain, clams, rain, moonshiners, rain, bears, and rain.

An absolute delight that has me laughing out loud every few pages.
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LibraryThing member TadAD
A memoir of life deep in the backwoods of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. If the title sounds familiar, it was made into a Claudette Colbert/Fred MacMurray movie in the 1940s and then had spin-off movies featuring Ma and Pa Kettle. Reading the book, one can well understand the lawsuits brought
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on by MacDonald's former neighbors who thought they had been the model for the Kettles...with a partial exception of Ma, a fairly shiftless bunch of moochers.

The author's middle class upbringing had certainly done nothing to prepare her for life in the relative wilderness of no running water, no electricity and before-dawn to after-dusk labor. Her anecdotes about this life, while conveying the hardship, also reveal a deep sense of retrospective humor.

The story is quite amusing on the surface but there's a sad undercurrent lurking. Ms. MacDonald's husband, Bob, does not come across as the most pleasant man on the planet nor one who cares about his wife very much beyond her utility as a help around his chicken ranch. It didn't surprise me to read other sources that say he was an alcoholic and beat her, causing her to leave him and the ranch after four years.
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Betty MacDonald is by all accounts just a housewife. A housewife with a wicked sense of humor and the ability to transfer that humor to paper. In The Egg and I she tells of the time in her life when soon after getting married she follows her new husband from Butte Montana to the Olympia mountains
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to start up, of all things, an egg farm. From a young age her mother had always drilled it into her head to support her husband's chosen vocation and while chickens and their subsequent eggs weren't Betty's thing she dutifully packs her bags and with great determination tries to become a chicken-farming, egg-picking, hard-working housewife. Hilarity ensues.
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LibraryThing member debnance
Betty and her husband head to Washington State to start a chicken farm. Betty's citified look at the country and her backwater neighbors is a hoot.
LibraryThing member sarahemmm
There are some excellent reviews here which give identify the content of this book, but nobody has commented on the langauge. Betty McDonald gives everything around her a personality. In much such writing you would find poor or 'twee' prose, but this is not the case here. The mountains and Stove
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have real characters, attitudes and feelings.
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LibraryThing member GAYLEGREY
Very interesting classic. 1930s woman moves from NYC to Seattle to live on chicken farm w/new husband. Gives it her all. Real life was very interesting too. Google her.
LibraryThing member MrsLee
One of my favorite stories, this is where Ma and Pa Kettle came from. I laughed so hard in places while reading this book, it made me understand the phrase, "bust a gut".
LibraryThing member mimisbooks
This was the start of Betty MacDonald's successful autobiographical books. Made into a movie in the 1940's with Claudette Colbert and Fred McMurray. Betty gets married to an insurance salesman but he decides to move far away from friends and family to start a chicken ranch in the Olympic Peninsula.
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My favorit book.
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LibraryThing member RicTresa
This gals life reminds me allot of my growing up years and my own father's love of being a chicken rancher. It took me years before I was able to eat chicken again.

Plenty of chuckles to be had, I promise you. Very much worth the read.
LibraryThing member slavenrm
For the first time in a long while, I bought this book on purpose with the intent of reading it. Despite that, I may still be a bit biased as I just love the movies of the 40s and 50s that came about because of this book so I might be a bit biased.

As usual, starting with the positive, this book is
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a delicious snapshot of the time in which it was written. Characters are colorful and varied and painted with a broad and amusing brush. I was especially delighted when I realized (or remembered) that Ma and Pa Kettle made their debut to the world in this novel. The portrayal of those characters is rather harsher and more negative than their on-screen depiction, but they're certainly recognizable. The author has a wry comic wit that falls just short of actual laughter. This one is a classic archetype of the day.

To the negative side of the ledger, the book is rather a random hodgepodge. Timelines bounce back and forth with seeming randomness and the whole thing is very much in the form of someone's stories told around the kitchen table committed to paper. Little attention has been paid to the narrative long form and near the end especially things just don't hang together very tightly.

In summary, this is a fast and entertaining read but no work of great literature. It has much to reveal about the time and place of subject and does so with some comedic effect, but falls short of outright guffaws.
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LibraryThing member abcornils
This book was so much fun to read! This is the author of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle kids' books, and this is her story of chicken farming with her husband. She has a great sense of humor and is a great story teller. I loved it because it made my life of drudgery seem a little less serious, and she made
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me laugh.
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LibraryThing member Salsabrarian
Her vicious rips against Native Americans aside (“it’s a good thing their land is being taken away from them”), this is a hilarious account of a newlywed wife’s experiences on her and her husband’s chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula. Daily she battles the rainy weather, the stubborn
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kitchen stove, their garden, the chickens and her husband’s demands while also putting up with wacky neighbors.
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LibraryThing member AlexTheHunn
The story of a city couple who take up chicken farming in the hopes of regaining a sense of nature. This novel was turned into a delightful movie staring Fred McMurray and Claudette Colbert. This movie introduced Ma and Pa Kettle.
LibraryThing member Schmerguls
In my diary entry for Mar 28, 1947, I wrote: "Tonight finished (it's after midnight) The Egg and I, which was funny sometimes. I didn't like some things about it, but it was OK. Nothing signivfican, of course."
LibraryThing member lisa.schureman
I indulged in my curiosity to read this book as whenever we went by the Egg & I Road my mother would say, "Your grandfather's cousins, the Larsons owned the Egg and I once." There is some bitterness that comes out in the book, especially as the chickens and other animals rate over wife and child. I
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wonder if she would have married Bob if she knew that he planned to be an unsympathetic chicken rancher far from any sizable town. It is highly politically incorrect and racist displaying the attitude of her generation and the non-native writers before her. I did find it interesting, especially the description of the virgin forest and the logging industry
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LibraryThing member aulsmith
I liked it as a kid but I suspect I now find the classism disturbing.
LibraryThing member SylviaC
I've tagged this both "fiction" and "nonfiction". It is based on the author's time as a chicken farmer in the late 1920s, and is very entertaining. As a modern egg farmer, there were some parts that I could completely relate to, like her reflections on the nature of chickens and all the things that
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can go wrong with them. Having made a brief foray into the orchard business, I fully appreciated her description of her husband's pruning efforts. My strongest feeling as I read this book was a deep appreciation for all that I have: a farm with a well established infrastructure, barn mechanization, electricity, modern appliances, and running water.
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LibraryThing member DabOfDarkness
The Egg and I is a mostly autobiographical account about Betty MacDonald’s time on a chicken farm in the late 1920s in Washington state. Filled with humor, there’s plenty of odd characters, hardships to over come, new foods to be explored, and eggs to be gathered, cleaned, and packaged for
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The story starts off with a brief, but laughter-inducing, account of Betty’s school years leading up to her whirlwind romance with Bob, their marriage, and then moving to the Pacific Northwest in search of heaven – a chicken farm of their own! Betty isn’t your typical heroine with perfect hair and stylish figure. Nope, she’s like all the rest of us. She was considered rather too tall for the times, being 5 ft 9 in. I like that she had a belly and rough hands and messy hair. In many ways she’s a very practical person, but she’s still a city girl moving to the country, so there’s plenty for her to learn.

There is one big negative to this book, which was typical of the time period (this book was originally published in 1945): racist remarks towards Native Americans. At the time, such remarks were common and considered accurate. Thankfully, our society as a whole has grown and such remarks today would not sit well with me at all. In truth, even in a historical perspective, these remarks make me a bit angry. However, I am glad that the publisher decided to keep the book as it was originally written instead of washing out these remarks, maintaining the historical accuracy of views at that time, and showing that people of every ethnicity, including the author, are flawed.

OK, so now that that is out of the way, there’s plenty I enjoyed about this book. First, this story spoke to me in many ways. My husband and I some years ago left city life for rural living and had a little farm. We had to go through many of the same learning curves as Betty – starting a fire every day in winter to heat the house, irrigation, gardening, chickens, plowing with equines, stray dogs getting into our property, etc. While we have indoor plumbing, it’s not too hard to picture Betty briskly walking out to the outhouse on a crisp autumn morning.

The Pacific Northwest, and several places named in this book, hold a special place in my heart. Having family in Port Angeles and Seattle, we have visited the area many times. So it was a real treat to see these places through Betty’s eyes in the late 1920s when things were really rugged. She talks of all the edible local foods including the Dungeness crabs and the geoduck clams. Having a chicken farm, they were never short of eggs, so she learned to add an extra egg or two to any recipe that called for eggs, and to a few recipes that did not.

Ma and Pa Kettle feature prominently in the story, being some of the closest neighbors to the isolated chicken farm. There’s also the Hicks, who are eccentric in other ways. I think anyone who moves to the country will find a bevvy of interesting characters in the area and Betty doesn’t skimp on telling how odd her neighbors are. Also, Betty told amusing tales about the animals on the farm, her husband Bob, and inanimate objects, like the wood-burning kitchen stove. She doesn’t leave herself out of this well-meaning, laughter-inducing critique either. There’s plenty of chuckles to go around.

It being a chicken farm, we have to talk about the chickens. Since Bob was often working away from the farm during the day, Betty was the main care-taker of all the beasties. I love her descriptions of all the loving labor she, and sometimes Bob, put into caring for these birds. There’s the daily cleaning of their houses, maintaining the fences around their yards, putting together their feed, tending to the chicks (which far too easily succumb to death), gathering the eggs, and regularly culling the flock. She very accurately describes how with any other beast, such care would be returned with affection. Not so with the chicken! So true, and I say that from a place of love for chickens.

While Betty often jokes, she also usually tells it like it is. I hope others enjoy this classic as much as I do.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Heather Henderson did a great job with this book. I love how she carries the humor, telling it with a sense of irony where needed. She has a unique voice for each character and her male voices are quite believable.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
Betty has a strong voice and her life as the educated wife of a chicken farmer has lots of interesting interludes - but the tone of the book didn't resonate with me... it felt too much like sarcastic complaining? Whatever it was, the tone got in the way of being able to enjoy the peek into such a
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different way of life.
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LibraryThing member jennybeast
Life in the wilds of washington state, not the first frontier, but the next generation. I found it very interesting and am grateful to live as I do now.
LibraryThing member nancenwv
The Egg and I must have been written in the early 1940s if it was first published in 1945. So the thing to remember is that it's a window into that time period. I enjoyed reading it and spending time with Betty in the Pacific Northwest. I don't usually like sarcastic writing but she has a quirky
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twist to her sense of humor that I liked. For me it brought back much of the culture of growing up in the 50s so some things I found especially funny. At the time my siblings and I loved the Mrs Piggle Wiggle books. I found one when I was raising my kids in the 80s and decided not to read it with them. It's a different time.
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LibraryThing member PrueGallagher
This has a not dated well. The first few pages had some extraordinarily racist observations about First Nations Americans. Ugh.



Local notes

1st edition


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