Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Dec 16, 2010

MUDBOUND  is Hillary Jordan’s award winning debut novel. This riveting novel won the Bellwether prize which was founded and is fully funded by the renowned author,  Barbara Kingsolver.  The intent of this award is to promote literature of social responsibility.  This is one of Ms. Kingsolver's comments about Mudbound  from an NPR interview:  “I love the voices of the novel. I love that you understand everybody, even though everyone isn't right, and in the long run some people are very wrong.  But you begin by feeling their own perspective, and you have some sympathy for every character.”    Each chapter is told in alternating voices of the six main characters from two different families, one white and one black, as their worlds collide in the Mississippi Delta circa 1940’s.

 Laura and Henry McAllan  marry late in life,  happy to find  one another.   Henry McAllan  surreptitiously buys a farm in the  Mississippi Delta much to the dismay of his city bred wife.   Henry chooses the idyllic name of Fair Fields for the farm.   However, Laura’s choice of Mudbound is the one that endures.  No electricity,  no running water, but lots of mud and muck.  Henry prevails (as husbands did at the time) and the McAllan family moves to Mudbound with Henry’s father, the mean-spirited Pappy.   Thus begins the tragic events that make this book a page turner. 

The McAllans employ the Jackson family, Hap and Florence, as tenant farmers.   Their oldest son Ronsel, a celebrated war hero in Europe, returns to a community steeped in hatred and the laws of Jim Crow.  Likewise,  Jamie McAllan,  Henry’s younger, charismatic brother, returns to the Mississippi Delta as a renowned,  but scarred, fighter pilot.  Neither of these soldiers returns to the Delta by choice, but to fulfill family obligations.  Ronsel and Jamie form a tenuous, dangerous friendship that outrages their families and neighbors.  This compelling and  absorbing story moves quickly to a devastating conclusion.

Please join us for a discussion of this book on February 12, 2011 at the Shawnee Neighborhood library from 10:00 to 11:30.

Reviewed by Library Staff