The Egg and I

The Egg and I, by Betty MacDonald

This somewhat fictionalized memoir came across the donation table, and I'd heard somewhere that it was fun, so I took it home to read in random moments.  Betty MacDonald may be familiar to some as the author of the wonderful Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books for children (in which Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, who may be a witch and was definitely once married to a pirate, knows how to cure children who have fallen prey to bad habits and become Answer-Backers or Slow-Eaters-Tiny-Bite-Takers).

Betty MacDonald tells some hair-raising stories about her childhood in Colorado before she really gets going with her marriage to Bob.  Bob's dream is to be a chicken farmer in the Pacific Northwest and Betty gamely agrees, signing up for a life of isolation, no electricity, very hard work, and a stove that eats fuel but doesn't like to get warm.  And lots of rain.  And lovable but difficult neighbors, especially the Kettles.

She makes it all extremely funny and engaging, plus also you'll want to go live in the beautiful wilderness of Washington state.   If you take out the humor, you'll realize that it was a very hard life indeed and no wonder she was thankful to sell up and move to an easier spot.

It's a very enjoyable memoir, except for one thing; she is awful when writing about Native Americans.  I mean, terrible.  Luckily it's only a few chapters, but wow.  So watch out for that.

MacDonald wrote three other memoirs after this, about surviving the Depression, getting TB, and living on Puget Sound.

One funny thing about my copy is that the type is exactly the same as in the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books I read as a kid.  Chapter headings and all.  They must have been printed at the same time, I suppose!


  1. I loved the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books so much as a kid. I used to take them out of the library over and over. That's part of why the racism in this book was so painful. Also, since I now have firsthand knowledge of the racial issues of this area, it was rough to read about. I heard the TB book doesn't have that in there though so maybe I'll give that a try one day.

  2. Yeah, it really kind of spoils the whole thing. It took me by surprise, too; I'd never heard much about the book at all. The TB one might be a better choice, let me know if you ever read it!

  3. Not to excuse Betty or the general racism of the day, but in spite of the humorous tone of the book it was written out of a pretty sad situation. She was a young mother in a abusive marriage and I think she projected some of her fear and disgust onto the Native Americans since she couldn't openly criticize her husband.

    I wonder if later in her life she gained some insight into their plight, the alcoholism that so repelled her for example being a result of their contact with whites. But she may have just moved on from that difficult place and not thought about it any more.

    I think you may have heard about the other books from me when I reviewed them some time ago. The Plague and I does have another point of view, as Betty's best friend in the sanatorium was Japanese-American and she points out some egregious discrimination there. Worth a read, for sure.

  4. That's good to know. Whatever hints she dropped in the book were hints I must have missed; I only found out afterwards that she left him. I think you make a really good point about the projection, because I do think I saw some hints of that, looking back.


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