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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."

Topics: Mississippi, American South, 1940s, Heartbreaking, Tense, Multiple Perspectives, Debut, Epic, Tragic, Dysfunctional Family, Sexism, Veterans, Discrimination, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Farming, Soldiers, Civil and Political Rights, Courage, Brothers, Love, Adultery, Race Relations, Death, Family, War, Female Protagonist, and American History

Published: Workman eBooks on
ISBN: 9781565126374
List price: $14.95
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Wonderful, heart wrenching storytelling at its best.more
There is no doubt that Jordan is an incredibly gifted writer, and this is one powerful, tragic story. The characters, warts and all, leap off of the page, and the telling of the story through the six different perspectives is wonderfully done. I also appreciated the variety of themes the novel tackled: racism, adultery, gender roles, war and silence are among the ones that immediately come to mind. That this is Jordan's debut novel is something to be marveled at.

I think the pace of the novel is something that could have been improved upon. I felt that the majority of the first 200 pages or so was background information designed to introduce the characters and their motivations, but not much happens. And then, all at once, in a fury many things happen. The consequence of this is that too much for me was left unexplored about what occurred as a result of a startling series of events, and I was left wondering how the characters truly felt about the chaos that occurred in the last 100 pages. I understand that a lot of the background was absolutely necessary as groundwork for the events in those 100 pages, because without it the characters would have felt flat. But I would have enjoyed a longer exploration at the end of what the characters were left with in the aftermath.

I also wish that Hap, Florence and Pappy had been drawn more clearly as characters. Pappy is clearly the bogeyman of our tale, and while many stories need one of those, for this particular one I felt he was overdone. What makes someone so coldblooded, so despicable as Pappy? The book clearly shows close to nothing redeemable about his character, and when you're shooting for something realistic, it should be better explained why this is the case. Also, for me Hap and Florence's relationship was better portrayed by Jordan than the two characters themselves. While the relationship is an excellent foil to Henry and Laura's, the characters could use a bit of fleshing out. How did Hap feel about being constantly being asked to berate his son for his "misbehavior"? How did Florence, a strong and willful woman, feel about being constantly kept down by her gender and her race? I feel like Florence could have been the best character in the novel if Jordan had dug into her a little more.

But overall, this was a wonderful story and I will certainly read Jordan's next novel. The two criticisms I explained above are merely because I felt this book could have been extraordinary with just a little more put into it.more
Tackling “race” relations in the American South can be treacherous, particularly when the author is white and writing from the black perspective. Anytime an author writes in the voice of another group (ethnic, gender, social class, et cetera), he better know what he is doing. Three of the six characters that Hillary Jordan gives voice to in her debut novel, Mudbound, come from a family of black sharecroppers, yet Jordan does an admirable job of creating original and culturally significant characters.

Through alternating voices, each fairly unique, Jordan offers a fresh look at an old—yet never trite—subject. While the social issues largely revolve around ethnicity, Jordan also addresses sexism, class division, war and the trauma from war. Against a well-painted landscape, the story of Mudbound unravels at a wonderful pace; when the climax drops, the reader feels as though he is living through the drama in real-time.

Some turns were a little too convenient—characters in the right place (or wrong place) at the right time, Points A, B, and C connecting too easily, and so forth—but it still worked. There were enough surprises and original takes on the subject that the story was largely believable.more
I had sworn off any and all novels dealing with racial themes set in the South. There is only so much self-flagellating I can do in a year in penance for things in which I had no part. Certainly I realize that the theme is worth exploring, and that if you want to write a book set in the South, especially between the years covering Reconstruction through the Civil Rights era, race is going to play a part. This is all well and good, and admirable in that examining the past through the gauze of fiction can get at some of the smaller truths and nuances that non-fiction just can't.

I was just weary of it.

But a galley came in for this book, and I wish I could tell you what made me bring it home to read, but I honestly don't remember. Maybe it was the first paragraph.

"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, reformed 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."

Well, this was intriguing, so I flipped a few more pages in and stumbled on this:

"When I think of the farm, I think of mud. Limning my husband's fingernails and encrusting the children's knees and hair. Sucking at my feet like a greedy newborn on the breast. Marching in boot-shaped patches across the plank floors of the house. There was no defeating it. The mud coated everything. I dreamed in brown."

It was at this point I got flashes of Ron Rash's brilliant One Foot in Eden, and my resolve to step away from novels that mention Jim Crow on their jacket blurbs faded away. Sometimes it is a good thing I don't stick to a plan.


Hillary Jordan's Bellwether Prize winning novel subtly captures all the nuances of the South -- the uneasy inter-reliance the races have always had on each other; the familial ties that often defy explanation; and the realization that it was the fertile ground for change tilled during World War II in which the seeds of social change were planted.

Mudbound is written in the alternating voices of the McAllan and Jackson families. They are bound together by the sharecropping arrangement between the two families, one white (the McAllans), the other black (the Jacksons). Jamie McAllan and Ronsel Jackson have both served their time in service to the country, and they each find themselves returning to a home that is at once familiar as air and foreign as Europe once was for them. Ronsel, especially, must cope with the memory of the sense of equality he enjoyed while in Europe and the abrupt return to the status quo of an unchanged South.


Equally as off-balance in this world is Laura McAllan. She was raised in gentility, and the family land to which her husband is pledged is a far cry from anything she had ever known. Married to Jamie's brother, whose solid nature has, with familiarity, become thuddingly dull, Laura is rejuvenated by the handsome returning war veteran, Jamie. In him she sees the possibility of an awakening.

The stage is set for disaster when Jamie and Ronsel strike up a friendship forged by the bonds of war, and from the moment that is set in motion until the final paragraph, I was riveted.

The real treasure in this novel, however, lies in Jordan's masterful writing which captures every subtle gradation of the nature of the relationships between families of different races who depend on each other with a mixture of respect, fear, loathing, and affection. Nowhere is this dichotomy more eloquent than in a passage in which Laura speaks of Florence Jackson's daughter, Lilly May, who often accompanies her mother to the McAllan's house while Florence cleans the house. Laura speaks of Lilly May's beautiful voice:

"The first time I head her, I was playing the piano and teaching the girls the words to 'Amazing Grace' when Lilly May joined in from the front porch, where she was shelling peas. I've always prided myself on my singing voice but when I heard hers I was so humbled I was struck dumb. Her voice had no earthly clay in it, just a sure sweet grace that was both a yielding and a promise. Anyone who believes that Negroes are not God's children never heard Lilly May Jackson sing to Him.

This is not to say that I thought of Florence and her family as equal to me and mine. I called her Florence and she called me Miz McAllan. She and Lilly May didn't use our outhouse, but did their business in the bushes out back. And when we sat down to the noon meal, the two of them ate outside on the porch."


Mudbound took my breath away, and if Ms. Jordan's novel doesn't wind up with several more honors for it I'll be surprised.more
In lieu of a review, I wouldlike to share a post that I wrote to Hillary Jordan, back in the day when she was author of the week on LibraryThing.Hi, Hillary.I noticed that you are one of the LT Authors on the Home Page today. I wanted to stop by and let you know that when I see your name, your picture or the title of your book, "Mudbound" that my thoughts are lifted and brightened by knowing you are in this ol' world and writing, writing, writing for yourself and all of us who love to read.Have a lovely, safe and thanks-filled holiday with friends and family alike.With love and admiration ...Your friend and supporter,Ruth Craig/womansheart 10:11 am (EST) on Nov 25, 2009more
I first read this author's second novel, "When she woke" and being a Scarlet Letter fan I really enjoyed this modern day take on that novel. When I saw she had a first novel, I put it on my TBR and there it remained until as a New Year's resolution I decided to read at least two book from my TBR each month. This novel blew me away, I became emotionally involved in these characters and their lives. Two strong women, one white, one black, different circumstances but both with a strong love for their families. The Mississippi Delta area, in the Jim Crow south, where fairness for backs just very seldom happened. I never really thought about the blacks that had fought in World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen, tank divisions and after discharge had to return to the south where their families were, and still told to use the back door of a business. I think that is what I loved about this book, it made me think about unfairness, injustice but about real strength as well. Appreciating what you have now yet doing what you can to make a small difference. This was her first novel and it was fantastic, her second was very good albeit very different, but still addressed the many ills and unfairness in society whether in the past or the future. I wonder what her third will be?more
Here's something interesting about this earnest, well-meaning book. It was awarded the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, a prize granted to a book that "addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships." It was established in 2000 by Barbara Kingsolver and is funded entirely by her. Which means, of course, that she can probably hand it out to whomever she wishes. But one can't help but wonder if it isn't a conflict of interest when the author thanks Kingsolver in the acknowledgements for "turning the story into a coherent, compelling narrative [if the author does say so herself]; her passionate support of literature of social change; and the generous and much-needed award."Really?Surely if Kingsolver is awarding an author a prize, it shouldn't be for a book she more or less edited. Just seems wrong. Having said that, MUDBOUND is certainly a work that addresses issues of social justice, and so if that is the overriding criteria, then I suppose I holds, but it says nothing about the quality of the novel itself, does it?I enjoyed the book, as a quick read. The multiple points of view is well handled, although by the end I thought the narrative would have been better served by fewer perspectives. So many voices watered down the tension, for me. As well, this story of two brothers and one woman has been told many times before, and better -- I'm thinking of ON THE NIGHT PLAIN by J. Robert Lennon -- so there was little new there. Nor was there much new in the portrayal of racism in the south. Jordan competently describes it, and certainly the climax scene is as horrific and terrifying as one might imagine, but it's not new territory. I kept thinking there was a deeper, more thoughtful book lurking just under the surface that Jordan didn't quite get to. However, perhaps this is harsh criticism. It is her first novel and frankly, it's much better than THE HELP, which uses 'eye-dialect' and never really strikes a realistic chord when focusing on the African American characters (I understand the film manages this better, but I didn't see it). Jordan does better here, infusing her black characters with dignity and a simmering rage that rings utterly true. Still, Ronsel, one of the POV black characters, makes a decision at the end of the book which is unexplained, and I found that odd.In spite of this criticism -- that the book should not be awarded a prize from someone so closely associated with it, and that there is little new here -- I think Jordan has a wonderful eye for character detail, and a fine prose style. I'll look for more of her work in the future.more
In the post-WWII south, two families, one white one African American, struggle to survive on a farm in the Mississippi delta. Despite their denial, their fates are tied to each other's.Mudbound gripped me from the very first page. The tension in this book is so compelling that I couldn't put it down. Although I found myself hating a few of the characters, their stories fascinated me. Strangely, this book reminded me of The Help. Mudbound was much edgier and dark than The Help, but there are a lot of similarities among the setting and attitudes.There were times when this book angered me so much I wanted to scream at the characters, but on the other hand, my frustration was not a result of poor writing or plotting. It was just that I was so entranced by the story that I took things personally.I would have given this book 4 1/2 stars if I could have because parts of the ending upset me so much. Laura's choice especially angered me, but at the same time, I realize that a woman in the 1940's had little choice in such matters.more
A page-turner. Told from six different points of view, the story of rural farmers, black and white, in 1940s Mississippi leads to a brutal climax.more
Excellent story, well written, well paced and full of life!Reading books about oppression is frustrating, because I feel no empathy. I've always felt capable of being able to say, "That's not fair!" and act on it. But then, my generation and culture has very little oppression, on the scale of that was characterized in this book. Sure, women are paid less and people are still judged by the color of their skin - but no one is forced to use the back door or bullied for sitting in the front seat.For that, I can never have enough relief or gratitude for progress.more
It is rare that I can finish a book in just two days, with so many competing distractions in the world, but this book seized my attention, and kept me reading. The story itself is astonishing, compassionately told: both heart-felt and heartbreaking, with every element of human emotion imaginable, pain and love, suffering and kindness, surprise and despair, with nothing held back in the telling. Highly recommended!more
I really did not like this book as much as the hype led me to think I would. I do think that Ms. Jordan is a good storyteller - so good that when one of the violent chapters toward the end was about to begin, I stopped reading because I knew I couldn't take her graphic storytelling. I think it is interesting that she titled her chapters with different characters' names as though she were changing view points. But she really didn't change voices at all - the story was told in Laura's voice almost entirely.A dark and tragic book to remind us that we have made some progress in race relations in our country. I don't know - can't put my finger on why it didn't work for me. I do know there were several chapters I skipped - just couldn't take the horrendous pain and sadness.more
Hillary Jordan does a masterful job of capturing a time gone by and portraying the mindset of distinctly different characters at a volatile time in America. Set in the South in the 1940s, the clashes between the races are rampant as people struggle just to eke out a living. Told in the first person point of view of five characters, readers will be drawn into the story from the very beginning to the bitter end. A dynamic debut from a talented writer.more
I agree with the reviews that say this was a remarkable and wonderful book---gripping, yes. You could feel the lives of each of the characters--the good, the bad and the very, very ugly. Moving along in first person to each of the people involved was a challenging task on the part of the author but very rewarding to the reader. Unfortunately, it is all too recent that this fictional account, in reality, took place and is still such a big part of our lives.more
What a wonderful book!Told in multiple perspectives (a favorite technique of mine - when done well, which this is) this tells the story of two families in rural Mississippi in the 1940s. It tells of their lives and their pain.Laura, husband Henry, brother in law Jamie and African American neighbors Hap, Florence and Ronsel.more
This was a fantastic read and I was gripped from the first 20 pages. It is very well written and the pacing is top notch with the story jumping between different characters as they narrate their side of the story. I was hesitant at first about this device as when authors employ it I tend to favor one voice over the others, but each here was beatifully drawn and real. This is a depressing read, but very uplifting as well.more
“When I think of the farm, I think of mud.”There are many fine reviews of this wonderful book, so I’m going to keep this brief. The setting is the Mississippi Delta, circa 1946 and centers around a family farm. The story follows several different first person narratives and covers the trials of farm life, forbidden love, racism and the power of the human spirit, all told in strong crisp prose.Jordan is a fine writer and I look forward to reading more of her work. Highly recommended.more
I am "from off"; transplant to the south, who has now lived here for the majority of my life. There is much that I love about this region, especially the lush beauty of the land. The culture and history interests me, but mostly from the days that predate the European invasion. For it is with that invasion that some of the most mystifying and horrifying elements of southern culture set root. The institution of slavery, then the Jim Crow years and the horrible bigotry and racism that festers in society make my head and stomach hurt. But this book, which captivated me from the start, is set smack dab in the middle of those years, post WWII, when racism and bigotry reigned.This story, both delicate and brutal, is told from several different viewpoints. I didn't realize that at first, and found myself confused in the beginning because my preconceived idea was that this was Laura's story. But when does anyone's story exist in isolation? Such is the case here as the threads interweave to tell the tale. Though not easy to read because of the subject matter, Jordan's debut novel is a beautifully written story of heartbreak, hatred and survivalmore
Mudbound provides a much more realistic picture of the post-World War II Jim Crow South than the feel-good story told in The Help.Set in rural Mississippi, the story centers around two interconnected families: the white McAllan family, and their tenant sharecroppers, the black Jackson family. Henry McAllan married his wife Laura late in life and then surprised her by adopting farming, taking her and their two children, Amanda Leigh and Isabelle, to live at a horribly broken-down place she promptly names Mudbound. Henry’s misanthropic father, Pappy, lives with them and generally makes life miserable for anyone he encounters, especially Laura. But Henry’s brother Jamie, younger than Henry by nineteen years, captivates Laura by the impression of his strength, although later she abruptly becomes disillusioned with Henry upon discovering he was no superhuman hero but just another weak man. The black sharecropping family is headed by Hap and Florence Jackson; their war-hero son Ronsel served in World War II in the famous 761st Tank Battalion. Henry had served two decades before in World War I, coming home with white hair and a limp, but no other discernible problems. Jamie, like Ronsel, served in World War II, and came home damaged and dependent on alcohol. The only one who could understand what Jamie was going through was Ronsel, but white and blacks were not allowed to mix in the poisonous atmosphere of the post-war South.[During World War II, some 2.5 million black Americans registered for the draft. Some 909,000 served in the Army; 167,000 in the Navy, and over 17,000 enlisted in the Marines. They went overseas to put their lives at risk in the fight for freedom and democracy, and they come home to find these ideals were not meant for them in their own country. Ironically, the Ku Klux Klan became reenergized by the returning black veterans, who wore their uniforms and seemed to know no fear, and thought they could assert their equality. The response of the KKK was a renewal of violence. According to the Social Science Institute at Fisk University, groups of blacks and whites clashed at least 242 times in 47 cities in 1943 alone.]The story begins with Pappy’s death and then backtracks. By the time of Pappy's death, Henry is 49, Jamie is 29, and Laura's age is between the two of them.The McAllans (except for the evil Pappy) are not as racist as some of the others in their town, but hold condescending attitudes toward blacks nevertheless. As Henry mused: "Whatever else the colored man may be, he’s our brother. A younger brother, to be sure, undisciplined and driven by his appetites, but also kindly and tragic and humble before God. For good or ill, he’s been given into our care.”Jamie, the most upbeat and charming of the bunch, seems to cause nothing but trouble. Laura can hardly resist his allure, especially in comparison with the stolid Henry. This creates unfortunate consequences, but not as horrifically tragic as those that result from Jamie's insistence on his right to pal around with Ronsel, despite warnings from the racists in town. Discussion: This story is told in alternating chapters from the points of view of six characters: black and white; male and female. Sometimes plot points overlap so that the reader gets different perspectives on the same events. It’s ironic that one of the few likable characters – Jamie – is the one who is considered responsible for creating the most havoc. But the other characters are not honest with themselves in their eagerness to assign blame. Jamie is the most considerate and enlightened of the bunch, but the small-minded society in which he now lives cannot tolerate such attitudes. Laura has occasional bouts of backbone, but mostly she buys into the acceptable roles offered by her house and in her town, and her love for Jamie turns off like a faucet when she detects in him what she considers to be weakness. (And I found her definition of weakness to be repellent.) Henry is inconsiderate and cold, but Pappy is a hostile, domineering sociopath. As evil as he was, though, I didn’t find him unrealistic, but Laura's meek toleration of him seemed impossible to believe, even given the rigidity of roles for Southern women at the time. I’ve seen reviews that hold the Jacksons to be too saintly, but I didn’t see them that way; I thought they were good people who were moderately flawed, and who were the victims of a profound injustice that struck a lot of good people at that time.Evaluation: I am gratified to read a book that gives a more accurate portrayal of the viciousness that inspired some whites to don sheets after black veterans returned from fighting in World War II, mistakenly thinking that they might now be entitled to be treated like fellow human beings. Leonard Pitts, Jr., one of my favorite columnists, recently wrote:"As Americans, we lie about race. We lie profligately, obstinately and repeatedly. The first lie is of its existence as an immutable reality delivered unto us from the very hand of God. That lie undergirds all the other lies, lies of Negro criminality, mendacity, ineducability. Lies of sexless mammies and oversexed wenches. Lies of docile child-men and brutal bucks. Lies that exonerate conscience and cover sin with sanctimony."This book tells less lies than most. It is worth reading.more
This book winds the tale of two World War II heroes in the Mississippi Delta - one broken by war, the other lifted up by it - around that of an obedient Southern wife to give us a picture of how human beings bear the yokes of society.Both boys, one white, one black, are known for their "shine," a kind of spark that draws others to them. Jamie embraces his destiny of being a pilot, but after the war, the knowledge of the people he killed - killed without ever looking them in the eye - leaves him bleak and empty. Ronsel, a sergeant in an African-American tank battalion, is finds a new pride in both his service and the lack of discrimination he's treated with in Europe. In Ronsel's case, it's coming home to the racism and dehumanizing Mississippi Delta that hollows him out.Woven throughout these tales, is the saga of Laura, the wife of Jamie's brother, Henry, who buys the farm where Ronsel's family are sharecroppers. Without consulting her, Henry drags the gentile Laura from her family to live in the muddy, untamed chaos of the new farm. While Laura struggles to be an obedient wife in her inhospitable surroundings, Jamie and Ronsel try to navigate their way through a South that is no longer familiar. Eventually, though, the pressures of trying to fit where they don't belong bring the three to a violently heartbreaking and life shattering climax.This book is an amazing read on so many levels - the social, the literary, and that of a damn good story.more
A great read! Each main character speaks with his own voice to tell us the story. Laura, Henry, Jamie, Florence, and Jaimie have their own view of life in rural Mississippi after WWII.more
I read a glowing review of this debut novel so I checked it out of the library without really knowing what to expect. I was completely blown away. Set in post-WWII Mississippi, it tackles the racism that was rampant in the American south even after black soldiers returned from the war. A white family buys a rural farm which has tenant farmers, among them a well-educated (for the time) black family whose oldest son has just returned from Europe. The dynamics between the men and women, blacks and whites, and various classes are fascinating. The plot slowly picks up tempo until you are left breathless at the finish. When I closed the back cover I had to just sit for a few minutes, digest what had happened, and slowly return to the present day. Amazing.more
Wonderfully easy to read, beautifully written!!! -- Jordan's beautiful debut (winner of the 2006 Bellwether Prize for literature of social responsibility) carries echoes of As I Lay Dying, complete with shifts in narrative voice, a body needing burial, flood and more. In 1946, Laura McAllan, a college-educated Memphis schoolteacher, becomes a reluctant farmer's wife when her husband, Henry, buys a farm on the Mississippi Delta, a farm she aptly nicknames Mudbound. Laura has difficulty adjusting to life without electricity, indoor plumbing, readily accessible medical care for her two children and, worst of all, life with her live-in misogynous, racist, father-in-law. Her days become easier after Florence, the wife of Hap Jackson, one of their black tenants, becomes more important to Laura as companion than as hired help. Catastrophe is inevitable when two young WWII veterans, Henry's brother, Jamie, and the Jacksons' son, Ronsel, arrive, both battling nightmares from horrors they've seen, and both unable to bow to Mississippi rules after eye-opening years in Europe. Jordan convincingly inhabits each of her narrators, though some descriptive passages can be overly florid, and the denouement is a bit maudlin. But these are minor blemishes on a superbly rendered depiction of the fury and terror wrought by racism. (Mar.)more
Laura was 30 years old, a teacher, and unmarried....not good according to Mississippi's social crowd. A woman her age should be married and have children. She was embarrassed about it, and her mother didn't help with her comments.One day, though, Henry came to dinner and "saved" Laura from all the embarrassment. He asked her to marry him. She willing did and was happy. The happiness waned when Henry bought a farm to fulfill his lifelong dream of planting cotton along with a farmhouse with no running water, no plumbing, or electricity. Laura's life had hardships she was not used to, but she endured. The book was compelling...the chapters were divided into the description of and the tales of the main characters' lives, past and present. Mudbound was a portrayal of what life was like in Mississippi in the 1940's during and after WWII...the racial prejudices, the country re-building after the men came back from the war, the social issues, and the everyday life of Southern families, both black and white. The author's style is outstanding....you won't want to put the book down. The plot's tension and ultimate horror along with the characters will keep coming back to you even after you turn the last page. 5/5more
I can’t say enough about this spellbounding, intense book. Mudbound examines the lives of both a white farm family and a black share cropper family in the years right after World War II. Both families welcome home a soldier returning from Europe.Sharing such a common history and bond, these two men gravitate towards each other much to the dismay of both families. Friendships such as these were a secret, fearful thing in the days of Jim Crow. The war had taken these men, broadened their horizons and now had placed them back in a world of dark suspicions, hatred and discrimination.This is the first novel for Hillary Jordan, and it truly is incredible. Powerful, simplistic writing, characters that are fully developed and real, and a story that will haunt me for a long, long time. The story unfolds as seen through the eyes of different characters, each viewpoint is so evolved and complete that the reader has no difficulty in identifying the storyteller at any given moment. Like an engine coming down the track, we can see where we are coming from and where we are going in this potent story of racism and its’ effects. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.more
This WWII-era novel tells the story of six people and how their lives come together in the Deep South. Laura McAllen's happy life is turned upside down when her husband, Henry, unexpectedly moves his wife and two daughters to a muddy farm in Mississippi. Henry's joy at becoming a landowner and working the land is nothing to Laura's unhappiness at becoming a farm wife. Laura nicknames the farm "Mudbound" for the mud that plagues them and covers everything. Henry's brother, Jamie, who has just returned from the war mentally broken, provides a small bit of comfort in Laura's hard new life. The McAllen's story is interwoven with the stories of Henry's black sharecroppers Florence and Hap, and their son Ronsel who has also recently returned from the war. These six characters narrate alternate chapters as their stories all head towards an inevitable and horrifying act of racial hatred. This debut novel is a must-read.more
Set in the Mississippi Delta in 1946 Mudbound is narrated by several characters. Racism, secrets, and family drama are all part of this book. I thought the book was very well done, I can't imagine how hard it was for the author to be the voice of so many different characters. Great book!more
This is the second time I've read this novel. This time I read an autographed hardcover copy that Hillary Jordan mailed to me after I sent her an email telling her how much I enjoyed the book when it was first published. This story of two families struggling to make a living as cotton farmers in the Mississippi Delta shortly after WWII is very compelling. Hillary Jordan uses six narrators to tell her story of racial hatred and divided loyalties in the muddy and forlorn Delta country.more
Mudbound begins in a slow moving way. It seemed rather dull to me at first, and took me a while to get into. In fact, if it hadn’t been a selection for my book club I probably would not have finished it.It begins with two brothers digging a grave in the pouring rain for their father. We then go to flashback, narrated first by Laura, the daughter-in-law of the deceased. Other characters are gradually introduced, and the stories of the main characters are told through their own voices. In fact, much of the book is the introduction of each of the characters. So, we’re waiting and waiting for the action to begin.Two of the characters, Jamie and Ronsel, are returning World War II heroes. Jamie was a pilot, and Ronsel was a tank commander. While they have much in common, including what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder, they are separated by the great divide of race which, in 1940’s Mississippi, is all-important. Their experiences during and after the war contribute to the plot advancement of this novel.Laura and Henry own a farm in Mississippi. While Henry loves farming and farm life, Laura has nicknamed the farm “Mudbound”. She is stuck in a ramshackle farm house with her two young daughters and Henry’s father, Pappy. When Jamie returns from Europe, he joins their household. Ronsel is the son of Florence and Hap, Henry’s tenant farmers.So the events of the novel lead eventually to the death of Pappy. Unfortunately we never hear Pappy’s voice. He really is the central character. I get that he’s dead from the start of the novel and therefore can make no contribution to the flashbacks. And yes, he is a mean, ornery racist, but if the book were structured differently, we might have had some insight into his character. He remains two-dimensional and dull. I just think the main character should be more interesting.So-I recommend Mudbound, but not whole heartedly.more
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Wonderful, heart wrenching storytelling at its best.more
There is no doubt that Jordan is an incredibly gifted writer, and this is one powerful, tragic story. The characters, warts and all, leap off of the page, and the telling of the story through the six different perspectives is wonderfully done. I also appreciated the variety of themes the novel tackled: racism, adultery, gender roles, war and silence are among the ones that immediately come to mind. That this is Jordan's debut novel is something to be marveled at.

I think the pace of the novel is something that could have been improved upon. I felt that the majority of the first 200 pages or so was background information designed to introduce the characters and their motivations, but not much happens. And then, all at once, in a fury many things happen. The consequence of this is that too much for me was left unexplored about what occurred as a result of a startling series of events, and I was left wondering how the characters truly felt about the chaos that occurred in the last 100 pages. I understand that a lot of the background was absolutely necessary as groundwork for the events in those 100 pages, because without it the characters would have felt flat. But I would have enjoyed a longer exploration at the end of what the characters were left with in the aftermath.

I also wish that Hap, Florence and Pappy had been drawn more clearly as characters. Pappy is clearly the bogeyman of our tale, and while many stories need one of those, for this particular one I felt he was overdone. What makes someone so coldblooded, so despicable as Pappy? The book clearly shows close to nothing redeemable about his character, and when you're shooting for something realistic, it should be better explained why this is the case. Also, for me Hap and Florence's relationship was better portrayed by Jordan than the two characters themselves. While the relationship is an excellent foil to Henry and Laura's, the characters could use a bit of fleshing out. How did Hap feel about being constantly being asked to berate his son for his "misbehavior"? How did Florence, a strong and willful woman, feel about being constantly kept down by her gender and her race? I feel like Florence could have been the best character in the novel if Jordan had dug into her a little more.

But overall, this was a wonderful story and I will certainly read Jordan's next novel. The two criticisms I explained above are merely because I felt this book could have been extraordinary with just a little more put into it.more
Tackling “race” relations in the American South can be treacherous, particularly when the author is white and writing from the black perspective. Anytime an author writes in the voice of another group (ethnic, gender, social class, et cetera), he better know what he is doing. Three of the six characters that Hillary Jordan gives voice to in her debut novel, Mudbound, come from a family of black sharecroppers, yet Jordan does an admirable job of creating original and culturally significant characters.

Through alternating voices, each fairly unique, Jordan offers a fresh look at an old—yet never trite—subject. While the social issues largely revolve around ethnicity, Jordan also addresses sexism, class division, war and the trauma from war. Against a well-painted landscape, the story of Mudbound unravels at a wonderful pace; when the climax drops, the reader feels as though he is living through the drama in real-time.

Some turns were a little too convenient—characters in the right place (or wrong place) at the right time, Points A, B, and C connecting too easily, and so forth—but it still worked. There were enough surprises and original takes on the subject that the story was largely believable.more
I had sworn off any and all novels dealing with racial themes set in the South. There is only so much self-flagellating I can do in a year in penance for things in which I had no part. Certainly I realize that the theme is worth exploring, and that if you want to write a book set in the South, especially between the years covering Reconstruction through the Civil Rights era, race is going to play a part. This is all well and good, and admirable in that examining the past through the gauze of fiction can get at some of the smaller truths and nuances that non-fiction just can't.

I was just weary of it.

But a galley came in for this book, and I wish I could tell you what made me bring it home to read, but I honestly don't remember. Maybe it was the first paragraph.

"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, reformed 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."

Well, this was intriguing, so I flipped a few more pages in and stumbled on this:

"When I think of the farm, I think of mud. Limning my husband's fingernails and encrusting the children's knees and hair. Sucking at my feet like a greedy newborn on the breast. Marching in boot-shaped patches across the plank floors of the house. There was no defeating it. The mud coated everything. I dreamed in brown."

It was at this point I got flashes of Ron Rash's brilliant One Foot in Eden, and my resolve to step away from novels that mention Jim Crow on their jacket blurbs faded away. Sometimes it is a good thing I don't stick to a plan.


Hillary Jordan's Bellwether Prize winning novel subtly captures all the nuances of the South -- the uneasy inter-reliance the races have always had on each other; the familial ties that often defy explanation; and the realization that it was the fertile ground for change tilled during World War II in which the seeds of social change were planted.

Mudbound is written in the alternating voices of the McAllan and Jackson families. They are bound together by the sharecropping arrangement between the two families, one white (the McAllans), the other black (the Jacksons). Jamie McAllan and Ronsel Jackson have both served their time in service to the country, and they each find themselves returning to a home that is at once familiar as air and foreign as Europe once was for them. Ronsel, especially, must cope with the memory of the sense of equality he enjoyed while in Europe and the abrupt return to the status quo of an unchanged South.


Equally as off-balance in this world is Laura McAllan. She was raised in gentility, and the family land to which her husband is pledged is a far cry from anything she had ever known. Married to Jamie's brother, whose solid nature has, with familiarity, become thuddingly dull, Laura is rejuvenated by the handsome returning war veteran, Jamie. In him she sees the possibility of an awakening.

The stage is set for disaster when Jamie and Ronsel strike up a friendship forged by the bonds of war, and from the moment that is set in motion until the final paragraph, I was riveted.

The real treasure in this novel, however, lies in Jordan's masterful writing which captures every subtle gradation of the nature of the relationships between families of different races who depend on each other with a mixture of respect, fear, loathing, and affection. Nowhere is this dichotomy more eloquent than in a passage in which Laura speaks of Florence Jackson's daughter, Lilly May, who often accompanies her mother to the McAllan's house while Florence cleans the house. Laura speaks of Lilly May's beautiful voice:

"The first time I head her, I was playing the piano and teaching the girls the words to 'Amazing Grace' when Lilly May joined in from the front porch, where she was shelling peas. I've always prided myself on my singing voice but when I heard hers I was so humbled I was struck dumb. Her voice had no earthly clay in it, just a sure sweet grace that was both a yielding and a promise. Anyone who believes that Negroes are not God's children never heard Lilly May Jackson sing to Him.

This is not to say that I thought of Florence and her family as equal to me and mine. I called her Florence and she called me Miz McAllan. She and Lilly May didn't use our outhouse, but did their business in the bushes out back. And when we sat down to the noon meal, the two of them ate outside on the porch."


Mudbound took my breath away, and if Ms. Jordan's novel doesn't wind up with several more honors for it I'll be surprised.more
In lieu of a review, I wouldlike to share a post that I wrote to Hillary Jordan, back in the day when she was author of the week on LibraryThing.Hi, Hillary.I noticed that you are one of the LT Authors on the Home Page today. I wanted to stop by and let you know that when I see your name, your picture or the title of your book, "Mudbound" that my thoughts are lifted and brightened by knowing you are in this ol' world and writing, writing, writing for yourself and all of us who love to read.Have a lovely, safe and thanks-filled holiday with friends and family alike.With love and admiration ...Your friend and supporter,Ruth Craig/womansheart 10:11 am (EST) on Nov 25, 2009more
I first read this author's second novel, "When she woke" and being a Scarlet Letter fan I really enjoyed this modern day take on that novel. When I saw she had a first novel, I put it on my TBR and there it remained until as a New Year's resolution I decided to read at least two book from my TBR each month. This novel blew me away, I became emotionally involved in these characters and their lives. Two strong women, one white, one black, different circumstances but both with a strong love for their families. The Mississippi Delta area, in the Jim Crow south, where fairness for backs just very seldom happened. I never really thought about the blacks that had fought in World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen, tank divisions and after discharge had to return to the south where their families were, and still told to use the back door of a business. I think that is what I loved about this book, it made me think about unfairness, injustice but about real strength as well. Appreciating what you have now yet doing what you can to make a small difference. This was her first novel and it was fantastic, her second was very good albeit very different, but still addressed the many ills and unfairness in society whether in the past or the future. I wonder what her third will be?more
Here's something interesting about this earnest, well-meaning book. It was awarded the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, a prize granted to a book that "addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships." It was established in 2000 by Barbara Kingsolver and is funded entirely by her. Which means, of course, that she can probably hand it out to whomever she wishes. But one can't help but wonder if it isn't a conflict of interest when the author thanks Kingsolver in the acknowledgements for "turning the story into a coherent, compelling narrative [if the author does say so herself]; her passionate support of literature of social change; and the generous and much-needed award."Really?Surely if Kingsolver is awarding an author a prize, it shouldn't be for a book she more or less edited. Just seems wrong. Having said that, MUDBOUND is certainly a work that addresses issues of social justice, and so if that is the overriding criteria, then I suppose I holds, but it says nothing about the quality of the novel itself, does it?I enjoyed the book, as a quick read. The multiple points of view is well handled, although by the end I thought the narrative would have been better served by fewer perspectives. So many voices watered down the tension, for me. As well, this story of two brothers and one woman has been told many times before, and better -- I'm thinking of ON THE NIGHT PLAIN by J. Robert Lennon -- so there was little new there. Nor was there much new in the portrayal of racism in the south. Jordan competently describes it, and certainly the climax scene is as horrific and terrifying as one might imagine, but it's not new territory. I kept thinking there was a deeper, more thoughtful book lurking just under the surface that Jordan didn't quite get to. However, perhaps this is harsh criticism. It is her first novel and frankly, it's much better than THE HELP, which uses 'eye-dialect' and never really strikes a realistic chord when focusing on the African American characters (I understand the film manages this better, but I didn't see it). Jordan does better here, infusing her black characters with dignity and a simmering rage that rings utterly true. Still, Ronsel, one of the POV black characters, makes a decision at the end of the book which is unexplained, and I found that odd.In spite of this criticism -- that the book should not be awarded a prize from someone so closely associated with it, and that there is little new here -- I think Jordan has a wonderful eye for character detail, and a fine prose style. I'll look for more of her work in the future.more
In the post-WWII south, two families, one white one African American, struggle to survive on a farm in the Mississippi delta. Despite their denial, their fates are tied to each other's.Mudbound gripped me from the very first page. The tension in this book is so compelling that I couldn't put it down. Although I found myself hating a few of the characters, their stories fascinated me. Strangely, this book reminded me of The Help. Mudbound was much edgier and dark than The Help, but there are a lot of similarities among the setting and attitudes.There were times when this book angered me so much I wanted to scream at the characters, but on the other hand, my frustration was not a result of poor writing or plotting. It was just that I was so entranced by the story that I took things personally.I would have given this book 4 1/2 stars if I could have because parts of the ending upset me so much. Laura's choice especially angered me, but at the same time, I realize that a woman in the 1940's had little choice in such matters.more
A page-turner. Told from six different points of view, the story of rural farmers, black and white, in 1940s Mississippi leads to a brutal climax.more
Excellent story, well written, well paced and full of life!Reading books about oppression is frustrating, because I feel no empathy. I've always felt capable of being able to say, "That's not fair!" and act on it. But then, my generation and culture has very little oppression, on the scale of that was characterized in this book. Sure, women are paid less and people are still judged by the color of their skin - but no one is forced to use the back door or bullied for sitting in the front seat.For that, I can never have enough relief or gratitude for progress.more
It is rare that I can finish a book in just two days, with so many competing distractions in the world, but this book seized my attention, and kept me reading. The story itself is astonishing, compassionately told: both heart-felt and heartbreaking, with every element of human emotion imaginable, pain and love, suffering and kindness, surprise and despair, with nothing held back in the telling. Highly recommended!more
I really did not like this book as much as the hype led me to think I would. I do think that Ms. Jordan is a good storyteller - so good that when one of the violent chapters toward the end was about to begin, I stopped reading because I knew I couldn't take her graphic storytelling. I think it is interesting that she titled her chapters with different characters' names as though she were changing view points. But she really didn't change voices at all - the story was told in Laura's voice almost entirely.A dark and tragic book to remind us that we have made some progress in race relations in our country. I don't know - can't put my finger on why it didn't work for me. I do know there were several chapters I skipped - just couldn't take the horrendous pain and sadness.more
Hillary Jordan does a masterful job of capturing a time gone by and portraying the mindset of distinctly different characters at a volatile time in America. Set in the South in the 1940s, the clashes between the races are rampant as people struggle just to eke out a living. Told in the first person point of view of five characters, readers will be drawn into the story from the very beginning to the bitter end. A dynamic debut from a talented writer.more
I agree with the reviews that say this was a remarkable and wonderful book---gripping, yes. You could feel the lives of each of the characters--the good, the bad and the very, very ugly. Moving along in first person to each of the people involved was a challenging task on the part of the author but very rewarding to the reader. Unfortunately, it is all too recent that this fictional account, in reality, took place and is still such a big part of our lives.more
What a wonderful book!Told in multiple perspectives (a favorite technique of mine - when done well, which this is) this tells the story of two families in rural Mississippi in the 1940s. It tells of their lives and their pain.Laura, husband Henry, brother in law Jamie and African American neighbors Hap, Florence and Ronsel.more
This was a fantastic read and I was gripped from the first 20 pages. It is very well written and the pacing is top notch with the story jumping between different characters as they narrate their side of the story. I was hesitant at first about this device as when authors employ it I tend to favor one voice over the others, but each here was beatifully drawn and real. This is a depressing read, but very uplifting as well.more
“When I think of the farm, I think of mud.”There are many fine reviews of this wonderful book, so I’m going to keep this brief. The setting is the Mississippi Delta, circa 1946 and centers around a family farm. The story follows several different first person narratives and covers the trials of farm life, forbidden love, racism and the power of the human spirit, all told in strong crisp prose.Jordan is a fine writer and I look forward to reading more of her work. Highly recommended.more
I am "from off"; transplant to the south, who has now lived here for the majority of my life. There is much that I love about this region, especially the lush beauty of the land. The culture and history interests me, but mostly from the days that predate the European invasion. For it is with that invasion that some of the most mystifying and horrifying elements of southern culture set root. The institution of slavery, then the Jim Crow years and the horrible bigotry and racism that festers in society make my head and stomach hurt. But this book, which captivated me from the start, is set smack dab in the middle of those years, post WWII, when racism and bigotry reigned.This story, both delicate and brutal, is told from several different viewpoints. I didn't realize that at first, and found myself confused in the beginning because my preconceived idea was that this was Laura's story. But when does anyone's story exist in isolation? Such is the case here as the threads interweave to tell the tale. Though not easy to read because of the subject matter, Jordan's debut novel is a beautifully written story of heartbreak, hatred and survivalmore
Mudbound provides a much more realistic picture of the post-World War II Jim Crow South than the feel-good story told in The Help.Set in rural Mississippi, the story centers around two interconnected families: the white McAllan family, and their tenant sharecroppers, the black Jackson family. Henry McAllan married his wife Laura late in life and then surprised her by adopting farming, taking her and their two children, Amanda Leigh and Isabelle, to live at a horribly broken-down place she promptly names Mudbound. Henry’s misanthropic father, Pappy, lives with them and generally makes life miserable for anyone he encounters, especially Laura. But Henry’s brother Jamie, younger than Henry by nineteen years, captivates Laura by the impression of his strength, although later she abruptly becomes disillusioned with Henry upon discovering he was no superhuman hero but just another weak man. The black sharecropping family is headed by Hap and Florence Jackson; their war-hero son Ronsel served in World War II in the famous 761st Tank Battalion. Henry had served two decades before in World War I, coming home with white hair and a limp, but no other discernible problems. Jamie, like Ronsel, served in World War II, and came home damaged and dependent on alcohol. The only one who could understand what Jamie was going through was Ronsel, but white and blacks were not allowed to mix in the poisonous atmosphere of the post-war South.[During World War II, some 2.5 million black Americans registered for the draft. Some 909,000 served in the Army; 167,000 in the Navy, and over 17,000 enlisted in the Marines. They went overseas to put their lives at risk in the fight for freedom and democracy, and they come home to find these ideals were not meant for them in their own country. Ironically, the Ku Klux Klan became reenergized by the returning black veterans, who wore their uniforms and seemed to know no fear, and thought they could assert their equality. The response of the KKK was a renewal of violence. According to the Social Science Institute at Fisk University, groups of blacks and whites clashed at least 242 times in 47 cities in 1943 alone.]The story begins with Pappy’s death and then backtracks. By the time of Pappy's death, Henry is 49, Jamie is 29, and Laura's age is between the two of them.The McAllans (except for the evil Pappy) are not as racist as some of the others in their town, but hold condescending attitudes toward blacks nevertheless. As Henry mused: "Whatever else the colored man may be, he’s our brother. A younger brother, to be sure, undisciplined and driven by his appetites, but also kindly and tragic and humble before God. For good or ill, he’s been given into our care.”Jamie, the most upbeat and charming of the bunch, seems to cause nothing but trouble. Laura can hardly resist his allure, especially in comparison with the stolid Henry. This creates unfortunate consequences, but not as horrifically tragic as those that result from Jamie's insistence on his right to pal around with Ronsel, despite warnings from the racists in town. Discussion: This story is told in alternating chapters from the points of view of six characters: black and white; male and female. Sometimes plot points overlap so that the reader gets different perspectives on the same events. It’s ironic that one of the few likable characters – Jamie – is the one who is considered responsible for creating the most havoc. But the other characters are not honest with themselves in their eagerness to assign blame. Jamie is the most considerate and enlightened of the bunch, but the small-minded society in which he now lives cannot tolerate such attitudes. Laura has occasional bouts of backbone, but mostly she buys into the acceptable roles offered by her house and in her town, and her love for Jamie turns off like a faucet when she detects in him what she considers to be weakness. (And I found her definition of weakness to be repellent.) Henry is inconsiderate and cold, but Pappy is a hostile, domineering sociopath. As evil as he was, though, I didn’t find him unrealistic, but Laura's meek toleration of him seemed impossible to believe, even given the rigidity of roles for Southern women at the time. I’ve seen reviews that hold the Jacksons to be too saintly, but I didn’t see them that way; I thought they were good people who were moderately flawed, and who were the victims of a profound injustice that struck a lot of good people at that time.Evaluation: I am gratified to read a book that gives a more accurate portrayal of the viciousness that inspired some whites to don sheets after black veterans returned from fighting in World War II, mistakenly thinking that they might now be entitled to be treated like fellow human beings. Leonard Pitts, Jr., one of my favorite columnists, recently wrote:"As Americans, we lie about race. We lie profligately, obstinately and repeatedly. The first lie is of its existence as an immutable reality delivered unto us from the very hand of God. That lie undergirds all the other lies, lies of Negro criminality, mendacity, ineducability. Lies of sexless mammies and oversexed wenches. Lies of docile child-men and brutal bucks. Lies that exonerate conscience and cover sin with sanctimony."This book tells less lies than most. It is worth reading.more
This book winds the tale of two World War II heroes in the Mississippi Delta - one broken by war, the other lifted up by it - around that of an obedient Southern wife to give us a picture of how human beings bear the yokes of society.Both boys, one white, one black, are known for their "shine," a kind of spark that draws others to them. Jamie embraces his destiny of being a pilot, but after the war, the knowledge of the people he killed - killed without ever looking them in the eye - leaves him bleak and empty. Ronsel, a sergeant in an African-American tank battalion, is finds a new pride in both his service and the lack of discrimination he's treated with in Europe. In Ronsel's case, it's coming home to the racism and dehumanizing Mississippi Delta that hollows him out.Woven throughout these tales, is the saga of Laura, the wife of Jamie's brother, Henry, who buys the farm where Ronsel's family are sharecroppers. Without consulting her, Henry drags the gentile Laura from her family to live in the muddy, untamed chaos of the new farm. While Laura struggles to be an obedient wife in her inhospitable surroundings, Jamie and Ronsel try to navigate their way through a South that is no longer familiar. Eventually, though, the pressures of trying to fit where they don't belong bring the three to a violently heartbreaking and life shattering climax.This book is an amazing read on so many levels - the social, the literary, and that of a damn good story.more
A great read! Each main character speaks with his own voice to tell us the story. Laura, Henry, Jamie, Florence, and Jaimie have their own view of life in rural Mississippi after WWII.more
I read a glowing review of this debut novel so I checked it out of the library without really knowing what to expect. I was completely blown away. Set in post-WWII Mississippi, it tackles the racism that was rampant in the American south even after black soldiers returned from the war. A white family buys a rural farm which has tenant farmers, among them a well-educated (for the time) black family whose oldest son has just returned from Europe. The dynamics between the men and women, blacks and whites, and various classes are fascinating. The plot slowly picks up tempo until you are left breathless at the finish. When I closed the back cover I had to just sit for a few minutes, digest what had happened, and slowly return to the present day. Amazing.more
Wonderfully easy to read, beautifully written!!! -- Jordan's beautiful debut (winner of the 2006 Bellwether Prize for literature of social responsibility) carries echoes of As I Lay Dying, complete with shifts in narrative voice, a body needing burial, flood and more. In 1946, Laura McAllan, a college-educated Memphis schoolteacher, becomes a reluctant farmer's wife when her husband, Henry, buys a farm on the Mississippi Delta, a farm she aptly nicknames Mudbound. Laura has difficulty adjusting to life without electricity, indoor plumbing, readily accessible medical care for her two children and, worst of all, life with her live-in misogynous, racist, father-in-law. Her days become easier after Florence, the wife of Hap Jackson, one of their black tenants, becomes more important to Laura as companion than as hired help. Catastrophe is inevitable when two young WWII veterans, Henry's brother, Jamie, and the Jacksons' son, Ronsel, arrive, both battling nightmares from horrors they've seen, and both unable to bow to Mississippi rules after eye-opening years in Europe. Jordan convincingly inhabits each of her narrators, though some descriptive passages can be overly florid, and the denouement is a bit maudlin. But these are minor blemishes on a superbly rendered depiction of the fury and terror wrought by racism. (Mar.)more
Laura was 30 years old, a teacher, and unmarried....not good according to Mississippi's social crowd. A woman her age should be married and have children. She was embarrassed about it, and her mother didn't help with her comments.One day, though, Henry came to dinner and "saved" Laura from all the embarrassment. He asked her to marry him. She willing did and was happy. The happiness waned when Henry bought a farm to fulfill his lifelong dream of planting cotton along with a farmhouse with no running water, no plumbing, or electricity. Laura's life had hardships she was not used to, but she endured. The book was compelling...the chapters were divided into the description of and the tales of the main characters' lives, past and present. Mudbound was a portrayal of what life was like in Mississippi in the 1940's during and after WWII...the racial prejudices, the country re-building after the men came back from the war, the social issues, and the everyday life of Southern families, both black and white. The author's style is outstanding....you won't want to put the book down. The plot's tension and ultimate horror along with the characters will keep coming back to you even after you turn the last page. 5/5more
I can’t say enough about this spellbounding, intense book. Mudbound examines the lives of both a white farm family and a black share cropper family in the years right after World War II. Both families welcome home a soldier returning from Europe.Sharing such a common history and bond, these two men gravitate towards each other much to the dismay of both families. Friendships such as these were a secret, fearful thing in the days of Jim Crow. The war had taken these men, broadened their horizons and now had placed them back in a world of dark suspicions, hatred and discrimination.This is the first novel for Hillary Jordan, and it truly is incredible. Powerful, simplistic writing, characters that are fully developed and real, and a story that will haunt me for a long, long time. The story unfolds as seen through the eyes of different characters, each viewpoint is so evolved and complete that the reader has no difficulty in identifying the storyteller at any given moment. Like an engine coming down the track, we can see where we are coming from and where we are going in this potent story of racism and its’ effects. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.more
This WWII-era novel tells the story of six people and how their lives come together in the Deep South. Laura McAllen's happy life is turned upside down when her husband, Henry, unexpectedly moves his wife and two daughters to a muddy farm in Mississippi. Henry's joy at becoming a landowner and working the land is nothing to Laura's unhappiness at becoming a farm wife. Laura nicknames the farm "Mudbound" for the mud that plagues them and covers everything. Henry's brother, Jamie, who has just returned from the war mentally broken, provides a small bit of comfort in Laura's hard new life. The McAllen's story is interwoven with the stories of Henry's black sharecroppers Florence and Hap, and their son Ronsel who has also recently returned from the war. These six characters narrate alternate chapters as their stories all head towards an inevitable and horrifying act of racial hatred. This debut novel is a must-read.more
Set in the Mississippi Delta in 1946 Mudbound is narrated by several characters. Racism, secrets, and family drama are all part of this book. I thought the book was very well done, I can't imagine how hard it was for the author to be the voice of so many different characters. Great book!more
This is the second time I've read this novel. This time I read an autographed hardcover copy that Hillary Jordan mailed to me after I sent her an email telling her how much I enjoyed the book when it was first published. This story of two families struggling to make a living as cotton farmers in the Mississippi Delta shortly after WWII is very compelling. Hillary Jordan uses six narrators to tell her story of racial hatred and divided loyalties in the muddy and forlorn Delta country.more
Mudbound begins in a slow moving way. It seemed rather dull to me at first, and took me a while to get into. In fact, if it hadn’t been a selection for my book club I probably would not have finished it.It begins with two brothers digging a grave in the pouring rain for their father. We then go to flashback, narrated first by Laura, the daughter-in-law of the deceased. Other characters are gradually introduced, and the stories of the main characters are told through their own voices. In fact, much of the book is the introduction of each of the characters. So, we’re waiting and waiting for the action to begin.Two of the characters, Jamie and Ronsel, are returning World War II heroes. Jamie was a pilot, and Ronsel was a tank commander. While they have much in common, including what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder, they are separated by the great divide of race which, in 1940’s Mississippi, is all-important. Their experiences during and after the war contribute to the plot advancement of this novel.Laura and Henry own a farm in Mississippi. While Henry loves farming and farm life, Laura has nicknamed the farm “Mudbound”. She is stuck in a ramshackle farm house with her two young daughters and Henry’s father, Pappy. When Jamie returns from Europe, he joins their household. Ronsel is the son of Florence and Hap, Henry’s tenant farmers.So the events of the novel lead eventually to the death of Pappy. Unfortunately we never hear Pappy’s voice. He really is the central character. I get that he’s dead from the start of the novel and therefore can make no contribution to the flashbacks. And yes, he is a mean, ornery racist, but if the book were structured differently, we might have had some insight into his character. He remains two-dimensional and dull. I just think the main character should be more interesting.So-I recommend Mudbound, but not whole heartedly.more
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