Summary and book reviews of Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound

By Hillary Jordan

Mudbound
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2008,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2009,
    336 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

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Book Summary

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.

The men and women of each family relate their versions of events and we are drawn into their lives as they become players in a tragedy on the grandest scale. As Kingsolver says of Hillary Jordan, "Her characters walked straight out of 1940s Mississippi and into the part of my brain where sympathy and anger and love reside, leaving my heart racing. They are with me still."

Read Hillary's blog at BookBrowse.

JAMIE

Henry and I dug the hole seven feet deep. Any shallower and the corpse was liable to come rising up during the next big flood: Howdy boys! Remember me? The thought of it kept us digging even after the blisters on our palms had burst, re-formed and burst again. Every shovelful was an agony?—?the old man, getting in his last licks. Still, I was glad of the pain. It shoved away thought and memory.

When the hole got too deep for our shovels to reach bottom, I climbed down into it and kept digging while Henry paced and watched the sky. The soil was so wet from all the rain it was like digging into raw meat. I scraped it off the blade by hand, cursing at the delay. This was the first break we’d had in the weather in three days and could be our last chance for some while to get the body in the ground.

“Better hurry it up,” Henry said.

I looked at the sky. The clouds overhead were the color of ash, but there was a vast black mass of them to the north, and it was...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The setting of the Mississippi Delta is intrinsic to Mudbound. Discuss the ways in which the land functions as a character in the novel and how each of the other characters relates to it.
  2. Mudbound is a chorus, told in six different voices. How do the changes in perspective affect your understanding of the story? Are all six voices equally sympathetic? Reliable? Pappy is the only main character who has no narrative voice. Why do you think the author chose not to let him speak?
  3. Who gets to speak and who is silent or silenced is a central theme, the silencing of Ronsel being the most literal and brutal example. Discuss the ways in which this theme plays out for the other characters. For instance, how...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

I hungrily raced through Mudbound in just two days, a whirlwind, fiction-filled 48 hours in which I loathed to put the book down. In the non-reading hours I worked or drifted to sleep with Hillary Jordan's six narrating characters chattering on gently in my head. Alternating narrators is tricky business, but Jordan pulls it off seamlessly, immediately commanding her characters to life ..... Her storytellers bear witness to some of the most horrific, unjust beliefs and actions that stain our nation's history, offering a token of literary justice that resonates much deeper than a mere drop in the best-seller bucket. This is a brave, beautiful novel, deserving of much praise and a wide readership.   (Reviewed by Lucia Silva).

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Media Reviews
People

"[A] supremely readable debut novel . . . Fluidly narrated by engaging characters . . . Mudbound is packed with drama. Pick it up, then pass it on." Four-star review

Paste magazine

A tremendous gift, a story that challenges the 1950s textbook version of our history and leaves readers completely in the thrall of her characters--and with an intense desire to investigate beyond the novel's pages.

Kirkus Reviews

"The perils of country living are brought to light in a confidently executed novel."

Publishers Weekly

Jordan's beautiful debut [is] a superbly rendered depiction of the fury and terror wrought by racism.

Library Journal

Jordan faultlessly portrays the values of the 1940s as she builds to a stunning conclusion. Highly recommended

Booklist

Starred Review. [A] sophisticated, complex first novel.

Author Blurb Stewart O'Nan
Mudbound is a real page-turner — a tangle of history, tragedy, and romance powered by guilt, moral indignation, and a near chorus of unstoppable voices.

Author Blurb Barbara Kingsolver
Hillary Jordan writes with the force of a Delta storm

Reader Reviews
Joyce S.

Mudbound
Our Book Club reviewed the book, at length, today and found so much to discuss. We liked the chapters written from each character's perspective and so true to the time and place. This book should be made into a movie.

Dorothy T.

Tackling tough issues
This is an engaging read and would lead to great discussions in a book club. The characters are carefully developed and the story moved me along and pulled at my emotions.

Marian the Librarian

A fast and excellent read!
A fast and excellent read! A great book for book clubs. So many issues to discuss about the South after WW II. Some have remarked it is a grim book. I think it's a book that especially women will identify with the female characters, although ...   Read More

None of ya business

Black and White Sparks emerge and form unity
This book is amazing. We read it in class. I love this book so much. I enjoy this book and would recommend it to everyone in the world who is black because it shows them that we all come far in life to get to the position that we are all in today.

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Beyond the Book

Mudbound won the 2006 Bellwether Prize for Fiction, a prize fully-funded by author Barbara Kingsolver, awarded to previously unpublished first novels that address issues of social justice. The prize, awarded in even-numbered years, consists of a $25,000 cash payment to the author of the winning manuscript, and guaranteed publication by a major publisher. The Bellwether Prize is the only major North American endowment or prize for the arts that specifically seeks to support literature of social responsibility.

Mudbound is Hillary Jordan's ...

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