book reviews

September 16, 2010

Courtesy of Beaverdale Books

Review by Catherine Rihm


‘The Quickening’

By Michelle Hoover

Other Press

Pub Date: 7/1/2010


216 pp

Enidina Current is weeding her new farm rows by hand when a strange woman calls to her from the fields. Enidina, heavyset and sturdy, covered in soil, faces Mary Morrow, birdlike and delicate, wrapped in a gold-threaded shawl. It’s the turn of the century as Michelle Hoover’s first novel opens, and the two women are meeting as neighbors, living less than half a mile from one another on adjacent Midwest farms.

They have little in common, differing not just in physique but also in temperament and beliefs. Enidina turns to her land, animals and family, matched by her husband Frank, with his easy ways, humor and a staunch work ethic. Mary is uncomfortable in the rural setting and immerses herself in the local church with religious fanaticism, and is at odds with her husband Jack, who ardently works their farm and fumbles with his raw, violent nature. Yet the women are bound by the times, and as the Great Depression looms — their livelihoods and families further threatened by weather and other events — they struggle through these hardships and tragedies as much as they struggle with one another.

The women share the narrative, and Hoover deftly creates their separate worlds and describes with intensity how they battle between needing one another for comfort and help during trying times of loss and conflict and bucking this reliance as secrets and betrayal surface. Hoover, an Ames native, delivers an emotional debut novel based on her great-grandmother’s journal that immerses the reader immediately into the lives of these two women. CV

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