Our lives all contain growth spurts--physical ones, most obviously, but intellectual and emotional ones as well. This acutely powerful debut novel focuses on just such a time in the life of a nineteen-year-old girl. Mandy Boyle is leaving home for the first time to begin college, full of ambition and anticipation, more than ready to sever ties with her blue-collar family and their backwater town in upstate New York. Over the next six months, Mandy's life is transformed, but hardly in the way she'd anticipated. Her father's sudden death acts as a disruptive catalyst on her own life, and overnight, it seems, her childhood ends. Mandy drops out of college, moves to New York City with a man she hardly knows, goes to work, and gets herself caught in an agonizing situation that she didn't choose but is entrapped by nonetheless.
The stage in a pregnancy when a fetus first shows signs of having a life of its own is known as the "quickening"--a milestone of development as important and dramatic as when a young person leaves home for the first time. The story of Mandy's quickening--her emotionally wrenching growth spurt--is an affecting, engrossing read, about real people making real choices, reacting to the unexpected turns a life can take. Brown's writing evokes comparisons to that of pragmatic, perceptive novelists like Wally Lamb, Elizabeth Berg, and Mona Simpson as she describes a young woman's growing, acting, and choosing, for the first time, a life for herself.