Enidina Current and Mary Morrow, the two main characters in Michelle Hoover's beautiful debut novel, The Quickening (Other Press), tell the story of their relationship as neighbors in alternating chapters. The two farm women form a tenuous friendship in spite of their disparate views of the world: Enidina focuses on her family, the soil, the crops, and the animals on their farm, while Mary dreams of a world beyond the harsh reality of early-20th-century Iowa farming. The husbands, one gentle and the other violent, are as different as their female counterparts. And yet these two isolated families are inevitably intertwined in this lonely corner of land. Hoover's ease with the material (she comes from a long line of Midwestern farmers) gives the story and the characters an authenticity that can't be faked. In spite of the fact that the tale is tragedy wrapped in hardship tumbling toward more tragedy, I could not help but read on. Hoover's is a powerful new voice that makes this story hard to put down and harder to forget.
Sun., Aug. 1, 4 p.m., 2010