Sunday, January 16, 2011
It's been a while since I read a pioneer novel. October I think, The Wake of Forgiveness. It seems like there was a time when every other book I read took place on a prairie or a homestead. I was influenced by Laura Ingalls Wilder at an early age. What changed? Are there less novels settling the west these days? I don't know about that. Did I become more interested in reading about hardscrabble lives in India and China? Probably.
The Quickening by Michelle Hoover is a prairie tale. It's 1913 and both Enidina Current and Mary Morrow are farmer's wives. Their places are adjacent and this rather than like minds makes them friends or rather friendly. Enidina and Mary are very different. Enidina is happy in her hard work life while Mary chafes under the yoke of the plow. Years go by, both families grow and more or less remain close. There are small betrayals and conflicts but proximity and loneliness has decreed that the Currents and the Morrows will be in and out of each others lives. When the Great Depression arrives and all of their small worries escalate into daily struggles to survive the relations between the two families come to a breaking point. Long held resentments, secrets and slights take on an importance magnified by dire economic circumstance.
Michelle Hoover is quite a strong writer. This is a finely structured, well defined novel that despite that has spontaneity of situation in the plotting. That coupled with the vivid honesty of Enidina and Mary's uneasy relationship makes The Quickening an unlikely page turner.