The influence family exerts over our lives, the twists and turns of allegiance and love are explored in Jacques Couvillon’s wonderfully warm debut novel Chicken Dance. Childhood and adulthood are clearly demarcated for hen-pecked Don Schmidt, a thoughtful, sensitive and hard-working boy frequently overshadowed by his domineering mother.
Circumstances, opinions and life alter radically for Don, however, when he becomes the youngest person ever to win the annual chicken judging competition. Elevated to the position of local hero, Don finds he has friends and admirers. Home-life, however, remains blighted by the dysfunction of his parents’ relationship. Struggling to piece together the various half-secrets he has learnt, Don once again finds himself centre-stage in a lithe twist that completely changes readers’ perceptions of Don, his family and the novel as a whole. The insular, slightly surreal setting aids much of the humour that carries weightier elements of the book. Couvillon’s talent is in his depiction of Don as a fully-rounded though somewhat naïve child whose strength and remarkable resilience arises from his selflessness. This cracking, corn-fed novel affirms, life and love, guaranteeing laughter along the way.