Considered one of the best novels of the Harlem Renaissance, Quicksand won the Harmon Foundation prize and has long been admired for its complex treatment of both racial heritage and female sexuality. Largely autobiographical, the novel focuses on Helga Crane, who, like Nella Larsen, is the daughter of a black man and a Scandinavian woman.
Crane's quest takes her from a teaching position at a small college in the South to the elite social circles of New York City and Copenhagen, but by the end of the novel she is married to an illiterate preacher in backwoods Alabama. While her marriage fulfills her longing for an uncomplicated existence and for sexual gratification, it leaves her mired in poverty and continual pregnancy. The book ends with her pregnant and weakened by childbirth.