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The Quickening

The Quickening
Michelle Hoover
Other Press
Publish date: 2010-06-29
Trade Paper
Review date: 06/30/2010


In this luminous and unforgettable debut, Hoover explores the polarization of the human soul in times of hardship and the instinctual drive for self-preservation by whatever means necessary.


Michelle Hoover, a teacher of writing at Boston University makes her debut as a literary author with The Quickening. The story is centered on two Midwestern women set in Iowa during the early to mid-twentieth century. The Quickening explores the lives of Enidina and Mary as they toil through a historic time of promise, war and depression. Through isolation, miscarriages and the shortcomings of daily life the women grow to rely on one another for friendship and support. A focus on the physical and emotional plight of farmwomen in the early to mid-twentieth century is achieved through a series of chapter-by-chapter first person narratives given by the Eddie and Mary. While reading the passages I found myself pausing to reflect on the unassuming yet poetic beauty of the womens' voices. The careful structure of the book is to be admired.

Eddie, a humble woman in her thirties who knows little more than a hard days work accepts a life spent in her father's home until she meets the soft spoken and even tempered Frank. They quickly marry and move a day's ride away to build a homestead of their own. While Mary, who was taught to walk on heels and carry cups of tea suddenly finds herself scrubbing floors and raising boys to mirror the skills of their broad shouldered boisterous father. As time passes, Eddie and Mary become reliant on one another for companionship, and seek aid in one another to alleviate the rigors of daily life in the flat, hard upper Midwest. Once the Depression sets in and survival becomes paramount, the women find themselves pitted against each other - yet nonetheless - in need of the strange and difficult friendship that mere proximity has bestowed on them. The vastness of the human soul is artfully exhibited in all its profound mystery as the two women find secrets revealed and loved ones compromised in this historic tale .