Monday, May 26, 2008

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Powerful. Mudbound is a book with staying power, creating images and emotions that resonate long after the last page is read. Laura, a proper city girl, was resigned to spinsterhood until she meets and marries Henry McAllan. Henry had gone to college and was a successful engineer in Memphis, but his real dream was to farm his own land. He buys some property and takes Laura away from Memphis and her family to an isolated Mississippi Delta farmhouse without indoor plumbing, a place Laura names "Mudbound." "When it rained, as it often did, the yard turned into a thick gumbo, with the house floating in it like a soggy cracker." Not only is her life now a never ending cycle of "pumping, churning, scouring,scraping. And cooking," Laura must also share her small farm house with Henry's racist, redneck father. The old man embodies bigotry and ignorance.

World War II has just ended, and two young veterans return to the Delta: Jamie, Henry's charming younger brother, and Ronsel, the son of black tenant farmers. Even though black soldiers had fought in the war, serving with honor, they were isolated in segregated companies and encountered unchanged attitudes of racial prejudice and hatred when they came home. The tensions created by these hatreds curl sharp talons of danger and brutality around life in the small community.
The book begins with the two brothers burying their father's body in the mud. The story unfolds through six different voices, six different viewpoints. Jordan makes each voice distinct and identifiable. She masterfully uses language to define her characters. Mudbound is a story of love, betrayal, and evil. A rarity - a thought-provoking historical page-tuner with three-dimensional, unforgettable characters. One the best - right up there with To Kill a Mockingbird.

3 comments:

____Maggie said...

Awesome, Vidalia! Did you know Hillary is doing the Southern Reading Challenge? She has agreed to an interview! Have any questions?

Vidalia said...

Thanks Maggie - It's so great you're hosting the challenge again. It's such fun and I always find excellent new titles that I would have overlooked had I not signed up! I'm completely in awe of Hillary Jordan's talent. If I could ask her a question, I would like to know how she could convey the time and place so well. Did she do any research? She truly captures the tensions of the times, and the voices of her characters, right down to phrasing, ring so true.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Great review! And great book club choice - I was completely gripped!