cover image The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

Sun-Mi Hwang, trans. from the Korean by Chi-Yung Kim. Penguin, $15 (144p) ISBN 978-0-143-12320-0

The road of life is paved with hardships, even tragedy. Fate is implacable; we all must die. Yet it’s possible to achieve happiness, and to make a positive contribution to humanity, if one perseveres. This is the lesson of this simply told but absorbing fable, a two million–copy bestseller in South Korea, and a story that will appeal to readers of self-help. The protagonist is a philosophically restless hen who yearns to raise a chick, but her eggs are collected daily by the farmer’s wife. The hen encapsulates her longing in the name Sprout, which she gives to herself, signifying the fecundity of nature. Determined “to do something with her life,” Sprout escapes from her cage into the barnyard, but she’s shunned by all its denizens except another outsider like herself, a mallard duck called Straggler. His lifesaving friendship enables Sprout to achieve one of her dreams: she hatches an egg she discovers in a briar patch, at first unaware that her offspring is not a chick, but a duckling. The book explores the joys of parenthood and the sacrifices required to nurture the next generation, the healing bonds of friendship, and the tug-of-war between nature and nurture. Spare but evocative line drawings by the Japanese artist Nomoco add to the subtle charm of this slim volume. B&w illus. (Nov.)