Monday, June 21, 2010
The Quickening: Michelle Hoover
My continued gratitude to Other Press, who sends me delightful, brand new reads like this one.
Michelle Hoover's debut novel, The Quickening takes place during the years of The Great Depression in a Midwest farming town. The two narrators are neighbors--Edidina Current and Mary Morrow--and they could not be more different. While Edidina is a sturdy and plump, hard-working woman, Mary had dreams of something a bit more cosmopolitan. Despite their differences the women form a tenuous friendship that waxes and wans through births and deaths, prosperity and poverty. Theirs is a friendship built of necessity. When Edidina struggles with birthing, Mary is the only woman around for miles. And when Mary is craving some female company amid a houseful of husband and sons, Edidina is her only female companion. So they have this delicate friendship which is hindered by Mary's husband, Jack, who does some pretty evil things. Mary finds solace in the new preacher, Borden which also proves to be troublesome for everyone. Ultimately, there are a lot of "your-folk-done-my-folk-wrong" finger pointing scenarios and some truly devastating events that will surely make you pick a side.
First of all, I have to admit that when I first read the book flap and saw that it was about farmers during the Great Depression, I was none too excited. My grandma was born in 1904, so I've heard enough Great Depression stories to last a lifetime. And I find that most books about farming life are sloooooow. You know, on account of farming life being slooooow. However, there was something about this story, with it's family strife and neighborly secrets that had me curious. I devoured this book in a matter of hours, folks. Quite simply, I was riveted.
Hoover has an amazing gift. While it's not fair to either book to compare, I found myself enjoying The Quickening in the same way I enjoyed The Good Earth. It is a character-driven novel in which events surround the characters opposed to a story where characters surround an event. As a result, I relate. I feel connected to Edidina and Mary as each woman narrates. Hoover has given each woman an individual voice that oozes emotion with such subtlety that she can only be called an artist.