I really like this book. I thought I’d make my opinion known at the outset as I am not a fan of reviews that make people wade through countless paragraphs before declaring their verdict. I prefer letting you know how I feel and then explaining why because at least you’ll know how I feel even if you don’t care why.
I admit I wanted this book to be good. Although I’ve never met Simon Rich, he is currently a writer at my “Saturday Night Live” alma mater and I have the same rooting interest for that show and its current inhabitants the same way I cheer on my old high school’s football team though I haven’t been a student there since 1968.
But Free-Range Chickens far exceeded all expectations as Simon has the unique ability to both zero in on life’s oddities, and create equally absurd worlds within them (“Acupuncture School”), as well as deconstruct familiar worlds (“I Think My Teenaged Daughter Knows I Read Her Diary”) and presenting them in a way that no one ever bargained for. The short pieces contained in this thin volume are not only based in intelligence, but the author also makes the assumption that the reader is equally knowledgeable about his subject matter. So when he offers some of the lesser publicized commandments that Moses was handed on Mt. Sinai, he simply presumes that the reader will not question the fact that, in total, there were 613 commandments and that not all of them are as eminently known as those first ten.
The book’s categories range from “Growing Up” to “Relationships” to “God” and, for all its dry, off-beat hilarity, there’s an inherent wisdom here that makes the illogical somehow logical or, at the very least, make as much sense as most of the courses I took in college. So, at the risk of repeating what I said at the beginning of this review, I really like this book.