In author Michelle Hoover’s debut novel, The Quickening, she explores “the polarization of the human soul in times of hardship and the instinctual drive for self-preservation by whatever means necessary.”
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published by: Other Press
Publication Date: June 2010
Number of Pages: 216 print pages
“Enidina Current and Mary Morrow live on neighboring farms in the flat, hard country of the upper Midwest during the early 1900s. 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.” –Official Website of Michelle Hoover
Lyrical prose, superb description, and dialogue that rings true thrust this novel into a must-read for any book club. Generally, the story is akin to Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, with its vivid characters and historical resonance. Personal sacrifice, reliance, and the bonds of family are issues that are pulled taught like guitar strings. Its pace is slow at times, but its voice is pure, which helps pull the reader along to its resolution.
My only issue with this otherwise moving work is that it lacks a gratifying ending. I felt that Hoover might have left off the last chapter, because the penultimate chapter is raw and edgy and deep, and the last is a poor attempt at a salve for a wound that won’t easily heal.
Selected by Indie Booksellers for the July 2010 Indie Next List and the Winter 2011 Reading Group List, The Quickening is an excellent debut novel. Michelle Hoover is an accomplished author and teacher, born in Ames, Iowa, the granddaughter of four longtime farming families. Her experience and polish shine through in this novel.
I’d recommend this novel to readers of historical fiction looking for a gritty transport into the Great Depression, for book clubs seeking a thought-provoking look at the human condition, and for writers that are hungry for a superb lesson in crafting tight, effective prose.
My Rating: 3 out of 5 FAVA beans.