The Quickening, by Michelle Hoover
(New York: Other Press, 2010)
"Enidina Current and Mary Morrow live on neighboring farms in the flat, hard country of the upper Midwest during the early 1900s. This hardscrabble life comes easily to some, like Eddie, who has never wanted more than the land she works and the animals she raises on it with her husband, Frank. But for the deeply religious Mary, farming is an awkward living and at odds with her more cosmopolitan inclinations. Still, Mary creates a clean and orderly home life for her stormy husband, Jack, and her sons, while she adapts to the isolation of a rural town through the inspiration of a local preacher. She is the first to befriend Eddie in a relationship that will prove as rugged as the ground they walk on. Despite having little in common, Eddie and Mary need one another for survival and companionship. But as the Great Depression threatens, the delicate balance of their reliance on one another tips, pitting neighbor against neighbor, exposing the dark secrets they hide from one another, and triggering a series of disquieting events that threaten to unravel not only their friendship but their families as well."
"My boy, you might think an old woman hasn't much to say about the living, but your grandmother knows when a person does right by her and when they don't."
Lovely, lyrical language, but I felt like I missed something here. Maybe it's just that the characters and plot, like the setting and Hoover's writing, is spare -- so much so that it was hard to get much of a sense of Mary or of how the relationship between the two women evolved over time (though Eddie did feel authentic and likeable, at least where I was concerned). I've read books like this before, where we need to draw our own conclusions about characters' relationships based on a handful of events with many years in between, but here it just felt like there wasn't enough to go on to let me connect the dots. Eddie's eagerness to reconnect with her departed daughter and never-seen grandchild is compelling, but not given quite enough airtime (unless it was just too subtle and understated for me to appreciate) to fully draw me in. Might be better on a second reading, or with a group, but for now -- just OK.