Michelle Hoover’s The Quickening is an epic narrative of the bitter feud between two Iowa farming families—a feud lasting forty years, through two World Wars and the Great Depression. She knows what she’s writing about–Hoover based her novel on her own grandmother’s diary and family oral histories.
Hoover will be at Magers & Quinn Booksellers on Sunday, August 1, at 4:00pm. Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from The Quickening.
It wasn’t until late in the summer of 1913 that your grandfather and I began to work this farm from the acres of weeds and grasses it was to a fine place. A place where we could earn a living. That’s what a beginning is. My father and his father and his father before that had lived within the same ten square miles of land. Even after I married, I didn’t move farther from home than a day’s wagon ride. I’d seen no other landscape as a child. Had never dreamt of it. A farm is where I was born. Where I would always live. I’d known it from the day my mother walked me through the fields and rubbed her fingers in the dirt, putting her thumb to my mouth so I could taste the dust and seed we lived on. She said this was home. When I asked her if there was anything else, she shook her head. “Nowhere you need pay any mind to,” she said. “Not for the likes of us.”
It was only a month after I’d lost my father that Frank and I first came to this place. We married on a Sunday, as Frank thought right, the chapel holding only our families and a few friends. There we stood, both in our thirties, Frank the older by eight years and graying at the temples. He wore a borrowed suit that showed his ankles and wrists, I in a dove-colored dress, my red hair combed smooth to lessen my height. Afterward we ate cake and berries and they tasted too sweet. We opened our gifts. My mother swept a spot of frosting from my chin and drew out my arms to look at the fit of my dress. I’d always been a big woman, suited more for the farm than for marrying, an old bride as I was back then. My cousins had to squint to find the ring on my hand.
Only late did we return to what Frank had made our home. This same house, with borrowed furniture in the rooms. The house smelled of earth and smoke. Frank had polished the wood and swept the floors, leaving the broom to rest on the front porch. He’d spent most of his years working to buy the house and land, much of it still in sorry condition. Though he didn’t speak of it, his family were croppers. He’d seldom had a thing of his own. Now the both of us had a fair bit, and after the loss of my father, I was as determined as Frank to keep it. When I hurried in, Frank took that broom under his arm and strummed me a song, a sorry frown on his face when he pretended the broom had snapped a string. I grinned, dropping a penny at his feet. This was my husband, a string of a man himself with a good bit of humor in him. He was fair-skinned with black hair and long limbs, his eyes fainter than any blue I’d ever seen. If anything, I knew him to be kind and hardworking, and that was enough. Behind a curtain of chintz was the bed he’d made. The sheets were white and damp with the weather, and in the night they proved little warmth. Outside, the animals in the barn were still. I could smell them through the window. But inside, this was what marriage was.
From The Quickening by Michelle Hoover. Reprinted by permission of Other Press, LLC.