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. It is the unlikely friendship of these brothers-in-arms that drives this powerful novel to its inexorable conclusion.
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."
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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 wed 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...
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).
Full Review (354 words).
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
Mudbound is Hillary Jordan's ...
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