This is such a beautiful book. For something that’s only 132 pages, I didn’t expect it to make an impact, but The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly creeps up on you. I picked this book up at my local library when I was browsing for new books to read. I was immediately drawn in by the simple, minimalistic but quirky artwork, which complements the story and the style of the narrative.
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang is about a farm hen called Sprout, who spends her day laying eggs for the farmers. She dreams of escaping the coop and have an egg and baby of her own.
From this simple premise comes a simple and moving tale about motherhood, sacrifice and freedom. When I read the blurb of this novel, and it is described to be an ‘anthem of … individuality’, I was wary that this was going to try and be an antithesis to collectivism. I was mistaken – the way The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly portrays individuality is the notion of a woman, a mother, taking command of her life and breaking away from farm dogma, and giving her entire being to her child, even if she and her child are inherently different.
I think one of the great things about this novel is that because the characters aren’t human, it allows us to detach ourselves from the characters and view this novel from a broader perspective. The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly can be interpreted in a variety of ways – people can see this as about culture, adoption, ethnicity and identity, politics – but the most distinct theme for me was the idea of motherhood; the hardships and tribulations of being a mother, the enduring and eternal love a mother has for their child, the helplessness as you witness your baby change from someone who needed you to someone who has to find their own path, and (literally in this book) the empty nest syndrome that may follow. Reading this book about Sprout and her love for Baby/Greentop made me think of my own parents and how much they sacrificed for my sake.
Ultimately, The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is a beautiful, beautiful novel. It is easy to read, its simple prose charming, and its message universal and guaranteed to move.
Book Name: The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly
Author: Sun-Mi Hwang
Publisher: Penguin Books