Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (and completed challenge)

After her 30th birthday, Laura thinks she is destined to be an old maid. However, when she meets Henry McAllan, who is several years her senior, she finds a man who is strong, knows what he wants, and will make a good husband. Two daughters and several years later, Henry makes the decision to buy a farm in the middle of Mississippi and move his family (including his crotchety father), whether they want to go or not. His original house plans fall through, and the McAllan family is forced to live in the old farmhouse with no plumming, electricity, and when it rains (as it often does in the Mississippi Delta), they are completely cut off from town. Racism is prevalent in this time, and old Pappy McAllan always has something nasty to say about the Jacksons (the black share tennants).

Life on the farm is hard, and Laura has a difficult time trying to adjust. When Henry's younger brother Jamie returns from the war (WWII), she feels a lift in her spirits, as he is handsome, charming, and easy to love, even though he has a drinking problem. When Ronsel, the son of the Florence and Hap Jackson also arrives home from the war, trouble starts brewing. Though he is a war hero, and has been treated as one for the past few years, back home, he is seen as just another black sharecropper. He is reminded that he is not allowed to use the front door of the store, and cannot ride in the front seat of a white man's car. He and Jamie strike up a friendship, as they feel a camaradarie from being soldiers in the war. However, in this town, it is not ok for a white and black man to be friends, no matter the circumstances, and this causes serious problems not only for Jamie and Ronsel, but also for their families.

Mudbound is written through alternating perspectives--Laura, Henry, Jamie, Ronsel, Florence and Hap. Hillary Jordan does an excellent job with this, and the reader is able to feel and understand the different characters' throughts and actions much better than if the story was told in third person. The tone of the novel is often bleak, but true to the situation that each particular character is experiencing. Mudbound has a true southern ring, with the descriptions of the landscape, the day to day lives of the people, and the dialect.

I would describe Mudbound as a poignant story, full of despair and hate, but also of love and hope. Hillary Jordan wrote a memorable first novel, which won the Bellwether Prize for fiction. I would definitely recommend Mudbound, and I am hoping Jordan is working on a second book!

Date Completed: August 3, 2008

Number of pages: 324

Read these other reviews of Mudbound: Thoughts of Joy, An Adventure in Reading, Maggie Reads. If you've read and reviewed it, please let me know and I'll add your link!

This is the third and final book for Maggie's Southern Reading Challenge. The three books I read were:

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan.

While I enjoyed all three, Mudbound was definitely my favorite. I think I read more Southern fiction that I originally thought, which makes sense since I am a southerner! Maggie is such a great host and held several fun contests along the way! Thanks for a fun challenge, and I look forward to participating next year!

One more thing...Maggie is holding a unique contest called State of the Mule. Sadly, one mule in Mudbound met his death by gunshot wounds--page 109. "Then I'm gone send hail big as walnuts down on that mule, making that mule crazy, making it break its leg trying to bust out of there...the next morning after you put that mule down and buried it..." (this passage sounds a bit odd, as Hap is speaking as God after he experiences a series of bad luck). Poor little mule :(


____Maggie said...

Yay, and you end the challenge with a bang! Now, if you could ask Ms.Jordan a question, what would it be?

Thank you for participating! :D

Literary Feline said...

I keep seeing this title pop up, but I haven't paid much attention to it. You've definitely piqued my interest! Thanks for a great review!

Trish said...

Congrats on finishing the challenge! Funny that you found a book that has a dead mule in it--I really didn't realize that this was so prevalent in Southern Literature! Sounds like a good book--especially for the alternating perspective, which I love. Glad you enjoyed it!

Anna said...

Thanks for the review. Until reading yours, I was unsure whether I wanted to read this book. I've now added it to my TBR list.

--Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

Stephanie said...

Congrats on the end of the Challenge. I've heard this book is excellent. One definitely for the TBR list!

Bookfool said...

Aw, poor little mule! I just checked to make sure I have this one on my wish list and somehow I'd managed not to add it. So glad you reviewed it. Thanks for the reminder!!! I meant to add it to my wish list months ago.

Tiffany Norris said...

Can't wait to read this!

Laura said...

~Maggie-You have such great questions to ask her--I'm greatly looking forward to your interview!

~LF-I'm glad I could help garner interest in this wonderful book!

~Trish--I will definitely be paying attention to mules in literature now, though I never noticed before. It always makes me sad when animals die though, even if they are stubborn mules. The narration by alternating characters was one of the best things about the book, and Jordan did an excellent job with each character!

~Anna--Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you do get a chance to read this!

~Stephanie--This was such a fun challenge! I've read some great reviews of this book as well!

~BF--I know...I was sad to find the dead mule in the story, but it is interesting to see how often they come up in Southern literature.

~Tiffany--I had been wanting to read it for several months before I got my hands on a copy from Half Price Books!

Charley said...

I've had a galley of this at my apartment for a while, but have never felt compelled to read it. Your review renewed my interest, however, so I'll have to pick it up soon.