Thursday, July 29, 2010

book review: The Quickening by Michelle Hoover

The Quickening
The backstory: Other Press has quickly become a publisher I look to and expect to like all of their titles. When I stopped by their booth at BEA, I knew I wanted to snag a copy of this novel, and I was thrilled when I got it.

The basics: The Quickening is the story of Enidina and Mary, two women with little in common except geography. Both live on a farm and they live near one another in a unnamed Midwestern state in the early 1900's.

My thoughts: Michelle Hoover was born in Ames, Iowa, where my grandmother grew up and where I spent much of my childhood visiting my great-grandmother. She's the granddaughter of four longtime farming families. My roots may not run as deep in farming, but I'm proud to be a sixth-generation Kansan. The Midwest is in my blood, and it shapes my cultural identity. I trace my family to Kansas and Iowa, and enough generations have called those states home that I truly don't think of the countries those first immigrants came from. All of this personal narrative merely serves to share the personal connection I felt with this novel even before I started it. I was imagining my own ancestors in Hoover's characters. Despite my affinity for Kansas and Iowa, I am a city loving nomad. The thought of life without air-conditioning, life working outside on a farm, and living in the isolated lands in the states I adore terrifies me. My mother has often said she would not have made a good pioneer woman, and I whole-heartedly agree. Despite all of my aversion to the lives Enidina and Mary lived, I felt an unbelievable kinship with them. I can't honestly say if this kinship stems from my own family history or from Hoover's simple, lovely writing.

The novel alternates chapters with Enidina and Mary narrating. Hoover did a wonderful job creating two distinct, dynamic female characters. Even when I picked up the book mid-chapter, I always knew who the narrator was. Typically in novels with multiple narrators, I have a favorite. In The Quickening, I loved both Enidina and Mary. I looked forward to both of their stories. Mary is certainly much more similar to me personally, but I was equally fascinated with Enidina, a woman so different from me but likely so similar to my ancestors.

The verdict: Hoover's language is as spare and powerful as the landscape she writes about, but her characters are dynamic and full of life. Recommended for fans of literary fiction and historical fiction.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) 
Length: 224 pages
Publication date: June 29, 2010
Source: I got it at BEA from the publisher

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  1. I love Other Press as well. Great review!

  2. This one is at the top of my must-read list!

  3. I've been eying this one; loved what u had to say about it.


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