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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, farming is an awkward living and at odds with her more cosmopolitan inclinations. Still, Mary creates a clean and orderly home...
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.
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.
1. Discuss the ways the author uses landscape as a character in The Quickening.
2. The tension between Enidina and Mary slowly builds from a personality conflict until it becomes an enduring family feud. In what ways does this evolve from a difference in values? In what ways is it shaped by external forces?
3. As a reader, did you find yourself "taking sides"? Why? Did your allegiances change over the course of the book?
4. How does the novel explore the uneasy relationship between money and morality? In dire financial times, how do the Currents balance the needs of their family and farm, and what they believe is right? What about the Morrows? How are these themes and dilemmas relevant to our own time?
5. Compare Enidina and Frank's marriage to Jack and Mary's. How does their love change over the course of the novel? In each relationship, how do circumstances bring them together? How do they drive them apart?
6. One of the driving forces and major themes of The Quickening is betrayal. How does betrayal—real or perceived—shape the relationships between various characters? In which cases do you think the character is right to feel wronged? In which cases do you disagree?
7. Do you think that Enidina and Mary's friendship is entirely one of necessity? After all, the Currents managed fine before the Morrows moved in down the road. If it is, then what kind of necessity? Practical, emotional, financial, familial? How does this change over the course of the novel?
8. How are the children—especially Kyle and Adaline—shaped by the relationship between their mother and father? Between their two families?
9. How does Mary's religious devotion affect her sense of righteousness? Do you believe that she genuinely tries to do the right thing? Or does she, more often, try to convince herself that she has done the right thing?
10. What do you think the novel says about the possibility and nature of forgiveness? Is redemption possible? Do the characters find it?
Posted June 8, 2011
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.
21 out of 23 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 6, 2010
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.
10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 1, 2010
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.
6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 10, 2011
Confusing at best. Slow in many instances. I was constantly switching to other books as this did not interest me in the least.
5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 12, 2010
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.
4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 28, 2012
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.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 16, 2012
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.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 17, 2012
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 11, 2012
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...Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 10, 2012
Posted April 28, 2012
Posted April 25, 2012
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 25, 2012
Posted April 25, 2012
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 25, 2012
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Posted March 31, 2012
Two women and their families suffer through the Great Depression, drought and flood on nearby farms. But their difficult pasts make them friends only because of their proximity and not due to inherent similarities. The result is tragedy for both. Their story is told Rashomon-style, in alternating voices. Beautifully written, very evocative of time and place.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 30, 2012
I just couldn't get in to the flow of this book. To me, read like a high school English assignment, one that you just didn't want to read and would do anything to avoid. It seemed overly wordy and the overall feel of it was dreary. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for a depressing book, or didn't give it enough of a chance, but I just couldn't get my heart into it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.