The Quickening

Written by Michelle Hoover
Review by Susan Zabolotny

Michelle Hoover’s debut novel is noteworthy. Based loosely on a family history written by her great-grandmother, Hoover gives a moving account of Iowan farm life in the early part of the 20th century. The story centers on Enidina Current and Mary Morrow, who are neighbors thrown together by circumstances rather than commonality. It reveals them in alternating viewpoints, and there is heartache in the telling.

They are as different as two women can be. “Eddie” is robust and capable of working hard to make their farm something of value, a woman who loves her husband and longs for children she may never be able to have. Mary is almost too fragile for farm life and feels a need to keep her home and children set apart from the harshness of everyday farm life. Her husband, Jack, feels betrayed on their wedding night, and their marriage is stormy from the start. She seeks solace in the local church with the minister, who takes advantage of her neediness. Her youngest son, different from his brothers, is unloved by his father, who is hard to the point of cruelty; this cruelty eventually spills over to touch the lives of Enidina and her family. When the Depression pits neighbor against neighbor, Jack nearly ruins the Currents with his demands. Mary’s final betrayal of them is a culmination of all the pain and rejection of the past forty years of her own life.

The author admits to the difficulty of writing about these Iowan farm people who are known for keeping their feelings closed off, but she has written a good story. The prose is so beautiful at times you’ll catch yourself reading a sentence twice. I highly recommend this book.