Title: The Quickening
Author: Michelle Hoover
No. of Pages: 215
First Released: June 2010
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “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.”
Comments and Critique: The Quickening is reminiscent of Willa Cather in its simplistic approach to life on a farm. However, unlike Cather, Hoover explores the darker side of humanity. Beautifully evocative, one can smell the dust and the dirt, feel the wind and hear the animals in the barn. Yet, there is an undercurrent of darkness that fills a reader’s stomach with dread that only increases as the story draws to its dramatic close.
Enidina and Mary are like yin and yang. They need each other for survival but cannot help but harm each other in the process. Mary needs Eddie more than Eddie needs her, and this comprises the foundation of the trouble between the two women. Watching their relationship unfurl and twist is heartbreaking, especially in light of the needless damage accomplished by the end of the novel.
Religion plays a subtle but key element in the novel. What passes for religious fervor turns out to be nothing more than selfishness. A desire to help neighbors involves a hidden motive. Nothing is quite as it seems in The Quickening, and religion is just one hint of this.
Set during the Depression, The Quickening explores the idea of neighbor helping neighbor and raises some profound questions about helping each other. At what point in time does helping one another become self-serving? Better yet, should we help others because it is the neighborly thing to do or because we hope to benefit from such help? If it is the latter reason, is this a bad thing? Based on what occurs in the novel, there is a strong debate for either opinion.
One of the most beautiful things about The Quickening is its starkness. This simplicity masks the deeper issues that make up the drama. The reader is drawn into the story one description at a time, compelled to read more as tension builds. The reader wavers back and forth in sympathy between Eddie and Mary, which only compounds the confusion and increases the desire to keep reading in order to be able to make a definitive decision about each character. Haunting in its message, The Quickening is not one to be missed this summer.
Thank you, Random House and LibraryThing’s Early Reader program, for the opportunity to review this novel!