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Barn 8

A Novel
Deb Olin Unferth
Two auditors for the US 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 but utterly plausible 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.

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An unforgettably exuberant and potent novel by a writer at the height of her powers

About the Author

Deb Olin Unferth
Credit: photo credit: Nick Berard
Deb Olin Unferth is the author of six books, including Barn 8 and Wait Till You See Me Dance. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and three Pushcart Prizes, and was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. Her work has appeared in Granta, Harper’sMcSweeney’s, and the Paris Review.
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Upcoming Events

Deb Olin Unferth appearing at BookPeople

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In conversation with Elizabeth McCracken. 

Deb Olin Unferth appearing at Green Apple Books

In conversation with Rita Bullwinkel. 

Deb Olin Unferth appearing at Franklin Park Reading Series

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Deb Olin Unferth appearing at McNall y Jackson Seaport

In conversation with Dana Spiotta.

Deb Olin Unferth appearing at Brazos Bookstore

In conversation with Lacy Johnson.

Deb Oolin Unferth appearing at Missouri Western State University

Location: Kemper Recital Hall.

Deb Olin Unferth appearing at Interabang Books

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In conversation with Benjamin Fountain. 

Deb Olin Unferth apearring at Volumes Boookcafe

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In conversation with Erik Anderson.


  • “A daring writer of wit, imagination, and conscience, Unferth has transformed her foray into hen hell into an adroitly narrated, fast-paced, yet complexly dimensional novel about emotional and environmental devastation. . . . Unferth sharply illuminates the contrariness of human nature, celebrates the evolutionary marvels of chickens, and exposes the horrors of the egg industry. . . . [A] vividly provoking and revelatory work of ecofiction spiked with mordant humor and powered by love.”Booklist, starred review
  • “Ignited by her fiery wit and distinctive voice, Unferth's novel uses one of America's most valuable and overlooked institutions as fertile ground to raise questions around the truths people are fed and the ones they turn a blind eye to. . . . Unferth's writing never feels patronizing—more than anything, it's galvanizing. . . . If this novel isn't a movement, it has enough heart to start one.”Kirkus Reviews, starred review
  • “In this outrageous piece of rural noir and pitch-perfect characterization, Unferth recalls Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang with a dose of vegan-minded quirk. This entertaining, satisfying genre turn shows off Unferth’s range, and readers will be delighted by the characters’ earnest crusade.”Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • “I leap to read anything Deb Olin Unferth writes, and her latest book, Barn 8, is further proof of her singular talent, her gigantic heart. While Unferth’s characters try to save hens, her miracle of a novel might, in turn, save you.”—R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries
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