The Quickening

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The Quickening

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  • Michelle Hoover
    Michelle Hoover  

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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590513460
  • Publisher: Other Press, LLC
  • Publication date: 6/29/2010
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,465,461
  • Product dimensions: 8.26 (w) x 5.68 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Reading Group Guide

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?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 45 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 45 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Make Time

    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.

    22 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2010

    Haunting - Brutal - An imperative read.

    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.

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  • Posted September 1, 2010

    An interesting character study on how different people respond to hardship.

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2011

    Don't waste your time/money

    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.

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  • Posted April 12, 2010

    The ending brings it all together

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2012

    recommened for all mature women

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2012

    Well written but joyless

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    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...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2012


    It had a great last few chapters.

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  • Posted April 28, 2012

    Okay if you like a story about hard times.

    Found this to be a very depressing and sad story.

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  • Posted April 25, 2012

    It will haunt you...

    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.

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  • Posted April 25, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    It is a great read. Its something a book club could tear apart. Its just one that you don't want to put down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

    mixed feelings on this one

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

    Ok read.

    Sort of depressing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2012

    Dont waste your time

    The writing style is scattered and senseless

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2012

    Can't really recommend this one

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2012

    Not good

    Could not finish reading this book. Story was too vague.

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  • Posted March 31, 2012

    Two women and their families suffer through the Great Depression

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2012

    Don't waste your time.

    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.

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