3.5 starsThis story is very sober. It could almost be a morality tale, teaching that if you willfully hurt others, you could end up losing what you hoped to keep for yourself. The tale is told by two Midwestern farm wives of the early 20th century. Enidina and Mary are very different in temperament and beliefs, and they don't particularly like each other. One has healthy children and the other does not, which deepens the divide between them. But they live on neighboring farms, so they associate out of necessity and sometimes help each other. And sometimes not. The husbands, Frank and Jack, are also starkly different personalities. They mostly just tolerate each other. And sometimes not. Tensions build between the two families as the hardships of the Great Depression threaten to destroy their livelihood. Troubles are compounded by Jack's abuse of Mary and their boys, and by Mary's bizarre interpretations of events. Lies and jealousy and the blame game eventually lead to disaster and loss for both families.What really frosts my shorts about these people is that they don't communicate! I realize it was a more stoic and tight-lipped time and place, but so much tragedy could have been averted with a few well-chosen words spoken to the right people.This is real bare bones writing, and that's good. I like spare prose. In this case, though, I would have liked a little more meat on those bones. Fill out the character profiles. Enidina and Frank are drawn well. Mary and Jack are not clearly defined, and thus don't make sense sometimes. Motives? Backgrounds? Why is Mary so clueless? Is she mentally ill? She expects people to thank her for ruining their lives.I thought the writing in the last 40 pages was superb, and much more engaging than the rest of the book. I hope that's a promise of things to come from Michelle Hoover. I think she's got the goods. The writing is solid and consistent. It just needs a little more "Michelle-ness" to define it as her own style.