The Quickening. Michelle Hoover. In the Argo Catalog.
I have long said that The Grapes of Wrath is one of the finest novels ever written. Michelle Hoover in The Quickening seeks to place herself within the pastoral tradition, and succeeds. It is the story of Enidina and Mary, two farm women that happen to be neighbors. This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. The writing is sparse, poignant and powerful. The book is just over 200 pages but feels much longer. It is a wonderfully slow read where every word matters and you feel as though you have know the two women your whole life. This is the type of book the really helps you slow down.
Right from the first pages a sadness pervades this novel. Despite the ruralÂ setting events are taking place, this is not a farm book where nothing happens. I spent a lot of time wanting to know why there was so much sadness in the voices, why there was so much animosity between the two woman and why their versions of events differed so widely. The tragic events explain it all very well.
Part of the beauty of this novel is its structure. The events unfold in rotating chapters and voices. Each chapter is in the voice of one of the women, this allows the reader to make up their own mind as to what happened. As a reader you cannot help but judge the way the characters behave and react both to events and to each other. This is a novel about relationships, about the waste and decay of two families and the difficulty of farming in America (especially during the 1930s). You can smell the air, feel the grass and feel the anger and sadness of rural living in a changing world.
This might be one of the best books of the year, though I doubt it will sell terribly well because it is from such a small press. I feel the urge to congratulate Other Press for finding this book and publishing it. I truly hope it gets the sales it deserves.