The book does have underlying messages. For one, we don’t own animals. They aren’t ours to do what we like with them. The fact that we behave as though they are products says that something has gone very wrong with civilization.
SARX: Deb Olin Unferth, American short-story writer, novelist, and memoirist is interviewed on her latest novel Barn 8, the enthralling story of a band of animal activists who plan a heist to free 900,00 chickens…
About ‘Barn 8’:
Two auditors for the U.S. egg industry go rogue and conceive a plot to steal a million chickens in the middle of the night—an entire egg farm’s worth of animals. Janey and Cleveland—a spirited former runaway and the officious head of audits—assemble a precarious, quarrelsome team and descend on the farm on a dark spring evening. A series of catastrophes ensues.
Deb Olin Unferth’s wildly inventive novel is a heist story of a very unusual sort. Swirling with a rich array of voices, Barn 8 takes readers into the minds of these renegades: a farmer’s daughter, a former director of undercover investigations, hundreds of activists, a forest ranger who suddenly comes upon forty thousand hens, and a security guard who is left on an empty farm for years. There are glimpses twenty thousand years into the future to see what chickens might evolve into on our contaminated planet. We hear what hens think happens when they die. In the end the cracked hearts of these indelible characters, their earnest efforts to heal themselves, and their radical actions will lead them to ruin or revelation.
Funny, whimsical, philosophical, and heartbreaking, Barn 8 ultimately asks: What constitutes meaningful action in a world so in need of change? Unferth comes at this question with striking ingenuity, razor-sharp wit, and ferocious passion. Barn 8 is a rare comic-political drama, a tour de force for our time. SOURCE…
Interview of Deb Olin Unferth:
SARX: What themes and messages do you hope readers of your book will reflect upon?
DOU: I don’t normally think of my fiction as a lesson, but the book does have underlying messages. For one, we don’t own animals. They aren’t ours to do what we like with them. We decided we own them, but it isn’t true. The fact that we behave as though they are products to use and store and kill whenever and however we like, and to do it on such a massive scale, says that something has gone very wrong with civilization. I believe it will be our downfall because—and here is the second underlying message—we are connected to these animals.
Chickens, all animals, are our sisters. I rebel against the classic model of family, where we care mostly or only for those few living beings that are directly related to us by blood. We are connected to all living beings. This pandemic has shown us that on a large scale, though in a far darker way than my chicken adventure…
SARX: The animal activists in your novel are perhaps quite flawed What are the essentials of a more effective form of activism?
DOU: The activists in the novel are flawed because humans are flawed and because we live in a flawed world. They aren’t utterly flawed as activists, not all of them, anyway. They are fighting for what they believe in: a better world, where animals are not kept in cages, where humans respect animals’ individual dignity and personhood. It’s hard to figure out how to change the world. Animal activism is especially hard because pretty much the entire world and all of human history is against you. These activists are depressed. That’s where I started from with these characters. But I tried to move them to a better place, all of them, in one way or another. How do we find grace in this flawed, damaged world? How do we find hope when it all seems so hopeless? That’s a question I tried to answer by the end of the book.
SARX: How might people begin to take practical steps in advocating for animals in their lives and communities?
DOU: I’m a big believer in personal choice, in not participating in evil practices, as a way to begin to scratch one’s community toward moral action. So I would say the most important thing is to not eat or use animals and to be role model for others. Second, apply your skills to the cause. Do what you’re best at. I’m a writer, so I tried to write a book that might lead readers to think more seriously about their connection to nonhuman animals and what changes they can make in their lives. Third, don’t let companies or the government off the hook. Support businesses and legislation that advocates for animals. Kick up a storm over animal advocacy. SOURCE…