At Crossroads with Chickens
In 2012, McCagg and her husband, Carl, built an off-grid, solar-powered house in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. It was to be a weekend getaway for the writer (“what’s this pitchfork for?”) and trombonist (a wannabe farmer). In December, with two cats and six newly adopted chicks, they drove up to Jaffrey from their home in Providence, Rhode Island, ostensibly just for the winter so their new pipes wouldn’t freeze. . . . But their hen “Rhoda Red” turned out to be “Big Red.” Roosters are outlawed by Providence city regulations, so Big Red couldn’t go back. Thus, writes McCagg, “neither did we. Survival of the fittest. Natural selection. Soul evolution. We named our 193-acre home “Darwin’s View” for a reason.” Chicken kerfuffles lighten the mood, but this story is born of heartbreak, of yearning for the great beauty of the world as it used to be. As she moves from full-time weekender to organic gardener, McCagg interlaces her tale with her mother’s battle with Parkinson’s, braiding both Mother and Mother Nature. Add the sun, the wind, and a cock-a-doodle-do, and you have the recipe for a perfect storm of personal growth rippling out to effect a larger transformation.
Bittersweet Manor (She Writes Press)
After a four month estrangement, thirty-two-year-old Emma Michaels returns to The Harbor View Assisted Living Home to tell her grandmother that she is selling her inheritance: the family property. Gussie, however, intends to move back. On the dock of Poquatuck Village, Connecticut, looking across the harbor to their ancestral home, the two women debate. Their conversation lays the framework for the book, which flows back over the decades to Gussie’s youth and marriage, and the lives of her three children, Auggie, Livy and Alyssa whose hopes and talents are warped by Gussie’s influence and disappointed expectations. Expectations passed down through the generations. Subtle. Unspoken. Implacable.
As Emma and Gussie remember their family’s life choices and dynamic relationships, within the context of the place that kept them together, Emma prepares to do what no one in her family has dared: let go of the past to make room for the future, though doing so will destroy the only thing her grandmother holds dear. What will be left without the house?
Tory McCagg holds an MFA from Emerson College, where her thesis and novel, Shards, won the Graduate Dean’s Award. In February 1997, her short story “Earthquake Weather” was a semifinalist in the Tara Fellowships/Heekin Foundation. She has won two honorable mentions: one for “Enology” in 1998 (A. E. Coppard Prize for Fiction, White Eagle Coffee Store Press); the other for “Chain Material” in 2001 (Lorien Hemingway Short Story Competition). In 1999, “Roots”, an early chapter from her novel Bittersweet Manor was a semifinalist in the New Millennium Awards VIII contest; Bittersweet Manor won a Silver medal for Contemporary Fiction from Independent Publishers in 2015. Tory is an accomplished flutist, and lives with her husband, two cats, and myriad chickens at Darwin’s View where they all practice an experimental life off the grid and on the land.