Cheryl Lloyd runs like lightning when she’s not running after her three children or caring for patients in Oxford, North Carolina. She loves to run on a trail and is slightly embarrassed that she recently binge-watched all five seasons of Breaking Bad while her children were watching multiple seasons of Brady Bunch. In the perfect world, she would eat key lime pie every day for breakfast. If she didn’t drive a minivan, she would ride an Indian motorcycle. Today she reviews The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, by Sun-mi Hwang. Full disclosure: she is also my dear sister.
From Cheryl: What an unexpected journey you are about to embark on. For starters, the protagonist is a hen. But don’t let that stop you from discovering who Sprout is and why she may end up inspiring you to think in big and heartfelt ways about your dreams – the ones from your past and maybe the ones of your future.
I found Sprout nesting among a heap of hardbacks at my local independent bookstore. She was sitting quietly and softly, and I nearly missed her. But something about the delicately inscribed title in crimson, surrounded by tall lithe trees, drew my eyes in, and The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly was mine for the next hour or so.
Written by Sun-mi Hwang in 2000, it became a best seller in South Korea for over a decade and has recently been published in America. This may be a story about a self-named hen who dreams of freedom far away from her chicken coop. Or it may be the story of finding your soul and listening to that voice, even if it plucks you up and takes you to places unknown…or towards outcomes uncertain.
Sprout longs for a life in which she can hatch her own egg before it is snatched away by the farm owner’s wife. Into the vast other world she knows only as “the yard,” she dreams of escaping. But her purpose is laced with an even deeper mission, which is to become a mother. “I’ve always wanted to hatch an egg. Just once! One egg just for me. I’ve wanted to whisper, I won’t ever leave you, Baby. Go on, crack the shell, I want to meet you. Don’t be scared, Baby!” Her yearning for motherhood is a true longing for more than her self-contained and pre-determined identity.
Sprout’s life in the coop is mundane and dismal and hopeless. But we are not left to linger in this world for very long, for Sprout does indeed escape. What follows is her story of becoming a mother in a most unusual way, and along her path, we meet a kind mallard, cantankerous barn dog, egomaniac rooster and menacing weasel. When we meet Greentop, the duckling, the true growth of Sprout’s soul begins.
This is a small book with big feelings: love, courage, fear, despair and peace are all there in a book barely over a hundred pages. What isn’t there may be equally important. Hwang writes with such elegance and emotion that the reader feels her words move deftly and gracefully page by page. Nothing feels cluttered or superficially sentimental. And although these are the voices of animals, they resonate as the voices of life. May your listening be as enjoyable as mine.