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The Quickening
     

The Quickening

3.0 45
by Michelle Hoover
 

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A July 2010 Indie Next Pick

Enidina Current and Mary Morrow live on neighboring farms in the flat, hard country of the upper Midwest during the early 1900s. This hardscrabble life comes easily to some, like Eddie, who has never wanted more than the land she works and the animals she raises on it with her husband, Frank. But for the deeply religious Mary,

Overview

A July 2010 Indie Next Pick

Enidina Current and Mary Morrow live on neighboring farms in the flat, hard country of the upper Midwest during the early 1900s. This hardscrabble life comes easily to some, like Eddie, who has never wanted more than the land she works and the animals she raises on it with her husband, Frank. But for the deeply religious Mary, farming is an awkward living and at odds with her more cosmopolitan inclinations. Still, Mary creates a clean and orderly home life for her stormy husband, Jack, and her sons, while she adapts to the isolation of a rural town through the inspiration of a local preacher. She is the first to befriend Eddie in a relationship that will prove as rugged as the ground they walk on.  Despite having little in common, Eddie and Mary need one another for survival and companionship. But as the Great Depression threatens, the delicate balance of their reliance on one another tips, pitting neighbor against neighbor, exposing the dark secrets they hide from one another, and triggering a series of disquieting events that threaten to unravel not only their friendship but their families as well.
   In this luminous and unforgettable debut, Michelle Hoover explores the polarization of the human soul in times of hardship and the instinctual drive for self-preservation by whatever means necessary. The Quickening stands as a novel of lyrical precision and historical consequence, reflecting the resilience and sacrifices required even now in our modern troubled times.

For information, tour dates, and reading group resources, visit www.michellehoover.net.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hoover's powerful debut tells the story of the intertwined fortunes of two early 20th-century Midwestern farm women. From the time Enidina Current and her husband, Frank, move into the hardscrabble farmhouse a day's wagon ride away from Enidina's family, their closest neighbors, Jack and Mary Morrow, perplex them, though their proximity and shared farm work often bring the two couples together. Sharing the narrative, stoic Enidina struggles through several miscarriages before finally bearing twins, while the more delicate Mary reels from disappointment, most of all in her volatile husband. Moving through the Depression, the families are driven farther apart from each other, even while Mary's youngest spends most of his time in the Current household, until an accident and a betrayal drive the final wedge into their lives. In this finely wrought and starkly atmospheric narrative, Hoover's characters carry deep secrets, and their emotions are as intense as the acts of nature that shape their world. (July)
From the Publisher
“A finely-crafted debut . . . vivid, fascinating . . . The novel grows richer with each page as Hoover’s quiet lyricism gradually asserts itself . . . Hoover has a gift.”—The Boston Globe

“In its deceptively simple, hypnotic prose and its attempt to understand, through fiction, the inner lives of long-lost rural characters who left few records behind, The Quickening inevitably recalls So Long, See You Tomorrow [by] William Maxwell.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“In Hoover’s début, the quiet struggle between two Midwestern farm women has the stark simplicity of a Biblical parable....The book’s lament for a lost way of life—one in which people ‘looked in hope to the ground and the roots growing there more often than we looked for grace from the sky’—has a mournful beauty.”—The New Yorker

“With prose as stark as the Midwestern landscape the novel is set in, Hoover brings a pair of early 20th century farm wives vividly to life.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Michelle Hoover’s debut novel is a haunting, beautifully told story that explores the hardships of the Great Depression by focusing on two families. . . Hoover writes with such emotional clarity. . .A captivating and heartfelt first novel.” BookPage
 
“Expertly crafted and authentic.”Poets & Writers

“Engrossing . . . Hoover burns away the glamour of the pioneer life, blending history and brilliant storytelling. [A] standout novel.” —Library Journal (starred)

“A vivid, pastoral panorama.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In this finely wrought and starkly atmospheric narrative, Hoover's characters carry deep secrets, and their emotions are as intense as the acts of nature that shape their world.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)

“I grew up among Iowa farm women, and Michelle Hoover has perfectly captured their voices and stories with great wisdom, tenderness, and beauty.”—Ted Kooser, U. S. Poet Laureate 2004-2006

“Just as the women and men in this strikingly assured debut novel wrest life out of the land they work, Michelle Hoover wrests from her characters' hearts, and from this heart-touching story, understandings rich in complexity and compassion.  She paints the intricacies of their interiors as skillfully as she does the details of the world that surrounds them.  What a gift she has given us in this wise book that lets us so vividly experience both.”—Josh Weil, author of The New Valley

“From the very first sentence of Michelle Hoover’s debut novel, I was captured. More than once, I paused while reading to savor her elegant prose and the hauntingly beautiful story she tells of two farmwives bound by loneliness and their cruel circumstances. The Quickening is a stunning debut by an astonishingly gifted writer with a long career ahead of her.”—Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot

“Michelle Hoover's fine debut novel recreates for us a way of life and a set of personalities that have vanished from our current scene, and she does so with a solidity of detail that will impress these people and these places forever on your memory.” —Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love
 
“Though The Quickening is her first novel, Michelle Hoover does what all the best writers steeped in a particular place do—use that place as a conduit to the universal and timeless mysteries of the heart.  What an exceptional debut this book is.” —Ron Rash, author of Serena

The Quickening is a rare jewel of a novel: an elegantly structured page-turner driven as much by its exquisite lyricism as it is by the gripping story at its core. It wondrously weaves a riveting half-century of American Midwestern history through the sensual, intimate, often strange details that make up a life. Michelle Hoover is a stunning writer and this is a fierce and beautiful book.” —Maud Casey, author of Genealogy
 
“From the opening pages of this beautiful novel, I found myself immersed in the lives of these two farm women between the wars and their struggles with their families, themselves, the land and each other. The Quickening is such a fully realized, sensually vivid, psychologically intelligent novel that it's hard to believe it is a debut, but it is and a sparkling one.” —Margot Livesey
 
“Michelle Hoover’s writing is brilliant and gutsy. She sees deeply, with great wisdom and compassion, and she creates characters who are complex and authentic.” —Ursula Hegi
 
The Quickening, through its carefully wrought, precise prose, builds with a heartrending power that lingers long after the final page. Michelle Hoover is a writer to watch.” —Don Lee

Kirkus Reviews
The struggles and embroilments of neighboring farm households in the upper Midwest beginning in the summer of 1913 through the Great Depression, as narrated by the farmers' wives. From the beginning, Enidina Current, Eddie for short, is wary of Mary Morrow, and for good reason-the misfortunes the Morrows visit on the Currents are nothing short of biblical. Mary plays the piano and seems ill at ease with the hand she's been dealt, hard work on the farm with her boys and her rough and sometimes abusive husband Jack. Mary is religious and plays more than just the piano in the lonesome white chapel their pastor, Borden, built with his father. Eddie's first pregnancy results in a miscarriage-no small blow in a world where children mean the sort of additional labor that can make or break a farm. Somehow, even in this misfortune, there's the taint of blame. Far-flung as these individualistic farming families might be, judgment and gossip run rampant. Eddie's is the story of wrongdoing inflicted by the self-righteous on the innocent, of blame twisted from the doer onto the victim. Despite their initial aloofness, the families forge bonds when Eddie turns to Mary for help pending the birth of twins. The households intertwine when one of the Morrow boys, Kyle, whose sensitivity sets him apart from his ilk, becomes a regular fixture on the Current farm. When the Currents, who cannot abide waste, refuse to go along with the killing of pigs as mandated by a movement for solidarity among the region's farmers desperate to drive prices up, Jack takes matters into his own hands. Bloodshed foreshadows the ultimate penalty Eddie and her family will pay. The tale develops through the narration of both women from later in their lives, elucidating with dramatic irony the warped nature of the judgments and self-justifications of the devout in a community pushed to extremes by the Depression, where some go so far as to call cowardice bravery and to impose their own twisted fears on others. Hoover paints stormy scenes of individuals and communities at odds with one another and with their own dark histories in a vivid, pastoral panorama. Ultimately, this is the story of survival-how life quickens and is borne on through turmoil, pain and perseverance. At times slow-moving, but imbued throughout with a careful and evenly wrought lyricism.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590513460
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
06/29/2010
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
635,827
Product dimensions:
8.26(w) x 5.68(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

Together my sons stood with the sow between them and watched their father stagger home, going slow, unable to get his footing. The rain hissed and grew,
making rivers in the mud, and my sons squinted under their hats and tried to find their father through the storm.
   But none of us could see him now. That was the way he went, walking off through the mud, the last I saw of the man I married, the man I knew—he would always be gone after that, a man of fog and temper, he would never come back, not for the six more years that I would live with him and scrub his shirts and cook his meals. Those Currents had trapped him. They had promised they would do what they should and sent him off to have to finish it, coming home with stains so dark on his sleeves that I had to turn that shirt to rags. After he walked off in that rain, you could no longer say we were husband and wife—we were little more than strangers. Later when the body of that man went, his passing was quick, without a shiver, without absolution. I found him again in our bed, stiff and cold where I woke in the morning next to him, clutching the blanket.
Still nothing more than a stone sat inside my chest, because my husband had already disappeared from me years ago in that storm.

Meet the Author

Michelle Hoover teaches writing at Boston University and Grub Street and has published fiction in Confrontation, The Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, and Best New American Voices, among others. She has been a Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference scholar, the Philip Roth Writer-in-Residence at Bucknell University, a MacDowell fellow, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and in 2005 the winner of the PEN/New England Discovery Award for Fiction. She was born in Ames, Iowa, the granddaughter of four longtime farming families.

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The Quickening 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
McGuffyAnn More than 1 year ago
The Quickening is a very special novel. Painfully told, it records the lives and friendship of two farm women in early 1900s Iowa. The chapters alternate between the voice of Enidina (Eddie) and Mary, who are very different women. Eddie is strong in body and spirit, made for country farm life. Mary is delicate and at odds with farming and the isolation of rural living. They form a friendship, a bond born of necessity rather than choice. Through the years with its many life changes they remain loyal to each other. The dependence brought by isolation is their constant bond. As the Great Depression looms, affecting farming and the community, families come under pressure and friendships are tested. Ultimately, secrets are exposed and a series of events changes everything with lasting consequences for everyone. Michelle Hoover gives an honest look at women's friendships born of need and strife. Her portrayal of farming and the harsh realities of it, particularly those in times of turmoil are honest and heartfelt. This is a remarkable book by a very gifted writer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Michelle Hoover sat me at the kitchen tables of her characters in her stunning novel, The Quickening, and served me a slice of the human condition I will never forget. Her book is a brutally honest narrative of Edwina Current and Mary Morrow, neighbors who are thrown together because of their need for companionship on the isolated Midwest plains in the early 20th century. In it we hear out-of-tune piano music in a tiny church; we smell the blood of the slaughtered sow; we feel the singe of a prairie fire. The birth of a child, the harvest of a crop, a successful batch of pancakes - nothing could be taken for granted for these women. For those of us accustomed to supermarkets, air conditioners and cell phones, it is an uncomfortable read. Convenience and connectedness were hard to come by the characters in Michelle Hoover's story. However, the deeper I dove into The Quickening, the more I realized the story was real and profoundly important. I couldn't stop turning the pages of this exquisitely written novel. I deeply respect Ms. Hoover's courage in telling a tale of isolation, loss, betrayal and desperation on the unforgiving land her characters long to tame. Most highly recommended. An excellent book for book club discussions.
Frisbeesage More than 1 year ago
The Quickening is the story of two midwestern farm wives during the Great Depression. Enidina and Mary are neighbors in an area where neighbors are hard to come by. Though they have little in common, they forge an uneasy friendship out of their proximity. The book is all about their relationships with each other, with their husbands, and eventually between their children. The Quickening highlights the harsh realities and bleakness of living on a farm in this period and shows both the nobility and the desperate greediness that can come from not having enough. I found The Quickening to be well written almost to a fault. I certainly felt that I was in The Depression, tired, dusty, and struggling just to survive. I can't say I actually enjoyed listening to this book, but I don't think the author was after enjoyment for her readers. It is an interesting character study on how different people respond to hardship. I listened to this book on the audio version, read by Carrington MacDuffie. She does a really nice job distinguishing between the voices of the two women, even giving Enidina a slight accent. The gruffness of Mary's voice surprised me at first, but came to fit her well as I learned more of her character.
mandersj More than 1 year ago
Loosely based on documents written by the author's grandmother, "The Quickening" details two farm wives' lives over the course of 40 years, beginning in 1913. Enidina grew up on a farm and knows what it is to work hard. She is a little older than the average woman when she meets a man her father has hired, and decides to run away and marry him. They make their home far away from her family, moving to plot their own Iowa farmland. Enidina helps her husband Frank with the crops and the animals, tending their large farm just the two of them. One farm over, just within sight of Enidina's, a younger woman named Mary lives with her two young sons and her abusive husband Jack. After years of living a solitary life, Mary walks to Enidina's farm and tries to make friends. Enidina doesn't know what to make of this woman who doesn't do a lick of work except to raise her boys, not helping on the farm at all. Over the years, Enidina and Mary and their families have many encounters, Mary helping Enidina through two miscarriages, Enidina helping feed Mary's children when they need it. These women are the only people so far out in the country, forced to help each other, forced to be friendly to each other. A guarded relationship, through the years, each woman never does know where they stand with the other, yet each knows they need the other to live. Told alternately through the eyes of Enidina and Mary, the story focuses on the children each eventually have, the lives and deaths of their husbands, the fate of their farms, and personal events that shape their lives and the role each plays in the others' life. This debut novel from Michelle Hoover is hard to put down. The characters are so strong and their stories so difficult, as times surely were then. The way the story is told, often from two different viewpoints of the same events, makes for a very compelling, thoroughly enjoyable read. If your heartstrings aren't tugged by the climax of this story, you're not paying enough attention.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Throughout the book I kept feeling what little power women had over their lives during that era, no matter what their personality oe life-style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very well written and it transports you to another time and place. The descriptives illuminate the scenes in your mind and the author gives a real feel for the characters. BUT it felt half written. The vignettes were told without cohesion and it seemed to scratch just barely below the surface- enough to engage you but definetely leave you wanting more. There was also a lack of simple joy in this book. I don't expect a fairytale ending but would like at least a little redemptive joy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Confusing at best. Slow in many instances. I was constantly switching to other books as this did not interest me in the least.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reviewers were almost ecstatic about this story but aside from a most evocative account of a desperate time in the history of our country there is very little to recommend it. The reader is frequently unsure of what is going on. The characters acted and interacted without revealing enough to keep the story moving. Confusing, depressing, and ultimately not enough substance to make this a worth the time investment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish I could give this this book 2 1/2 stars instead of 3 , but since I can't I decided to be generous. Don't get me wrong, this was a decent book. It was interesting and definitely kept my attention. But it made me angry! I absolutely hated Mary! She was deceitful and cruel throughout and never seemed to learn anything from her actions. That, and this book was very depressing with no real resolution in the end. Just not one of my favorites...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It had a great last few chapters.
Ready-Reader More than 1 year ago
Found this to be a very depressing and sad story.
redrockgrp More than 1 year ago
What more could you ask than to be so engaged by a story that it haunts you long after the last page has been envisioned in your mind? The author gives these characters such a depth of realism in their flaws and their feverish struggles that so wonderfully illustrates that maturity gained during our journey doesn't necessarily provide the resolution that we are looking for, but a deeper understanding of ourselves and those around us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sort of depressing.
R2RG More than 1 year ago
It is a great read. Its something a book club could tear apart. Its just one that you don't want to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Quickening was able to hold my attention, the author transferred the emotions and physical surroundings well. However, it was hard to follow the transfer from chapter to chapter in regards to the time line. A bit disturbing, yet probably realistic how the women dealt with their feelings in that time period. The ending came suddenly, and was a bit unclear what happened to all of the characters. Not a "feel good" story, but it made me ponder what those women faced in day to day life and how I would deal with it if it all happened to me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing style is scattered and senseless
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a dreary book. Hard to describe. Finished it but can't say I enjoyed it. Seems like it was a waste of time reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago