- Fizzy Thoughts: Mudbound


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Hillary Jordan
339 pages

Publisher Comments:

In Jordan's prize-winning debut, prejudice takes many forms, both subtle and brutal. It is 1946, and city-bred Laura McAllan is trying to raise her children on her husband's Mississippi Delta farm-a place she finds foreign and frightening. In the midst of the family's struggles, two young men return from the war to work the land. Jamie McAllan, Laura's brother-in-law, is everything her husband is not-charming, handsome, and haunted by his memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black sharecroppers who live on the McAllan farm, has come home with the shine of a war hero. But no matter his bravery in defense of his country, he is still considered less than a man in the Jim Crow South. It is the unlikely friendship of these brothers-in-arms that drives this powerful novel to its inexorable conclusion.

I flat out loved this book.  Each chapter is told from a different point of view.  We hear from Laura, her husband Henry, Henry’s brother Jamie, Ronsel, and his parents, Hap and Florence.  Noticeably absent is the despicable Pappy.  Thank god.  Jordan does such a fantastic job of giving each narrator a distinct voice and personality that the despicable Pappy might have been too much to bear.

Mudbound explores the pervasive racism that was so prevalent in the segregated South.  Hap and Florence are tenant farmers on the McAllan’s land (because they own their own mule, they only have to turn over 1/3 of their crop, as opposed to the sharecroppers who have to turn over 1/2 of their crop).  Their eldest son Ronsel fought in WWII as part of a tank battalion (I think that’s right…my memory for military terms is crappier than my normal memory).  After returning home from a more liberal Europe, Ronsel struggles to comply with the Jim Crow laws

What makes this book so interesting (besides the superb characterization) is being able to read from Ronsel’s perspective, and then switch gears and get an intimate look about how others feel about the same situation.  I particularly enjoyed Laura, who would probably deny any blatant racism, but whose actions still reflect the racist culture that she was raised in.  Jordan provides an excellent snapshot of life in Mississippi both before and after WWII.

This will definitely be a favorite read for this year.

12 comment(s):

Julie P. said...

I am so glad to hear that you liked this book. This was the other book that I definitely plan on reading! :)

Ali said...

Cool. I haven't seen this one before, and alas my library holds list is full. So when I ask you in a month, "What was that book that you loved, something about mud?" please remember it was this. I am incapable of making lists. (Well, no: I'm perfectly capable of making them. Incapable of finding them again when I want them.)

bermudaonion said...

Wow, this sounds good! I love books set in the South, even when they deal with difficult and embarrassing subjects.

Melanie said...

I guess I need to check this one out again. I keep reading good reviews and keep checkig it out of the library, but I can't seem to get it read.

Fyrefly said...

I read this book last summer, and really liked it as well (I can't exactly say I enjoyed it, it made me too uncomfortable), but definitely liked it. The power of the writing was just incredible - the first scene with them struggling to dig the grave with the thunderstorm bearing down on them still gives me the shivers to think about.

farmlanebooks said...

I loved Mudbound too! It was so simple, but sp powerful. It was one of my favourites from last year.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Sounds wonderful! Yes, have to write it down!

Ti said...

I think this is on my Goodread's list already. I guess I can leave it on there now. LOL.

Nymeth said...

I love multiple perspectives when they're done right, and it definitely sounds like that's the case here. I'll look for this for sure - thanks.

Beth F said...

This has been on my must-read list for a while. And I really must get to it. Your review has increased my interest..

I think this is so often the case: "Laura, who would probably deny any blatant racism, but whose actions still reflect the racist culture that she was raised in."

booklineandsinker said...

this is on my summer challenge (suggestions of great reads from other bloggers!) and i can't wait to get to it. the 'summer' part of the challenge might omitted shortly, as labor day is rapidly approaching! :) thanks for reminding me about this one.

SuziQoregon said...

This was one of my top books last year. I loved it and was telling everyone to read it. I want her to write more and soon!!!

So glad you loved it too!

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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