Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

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?

Title: Mudbound
Author: Hillary Jordan
ISBN: 9781655126770
Publisher: Algonquin Books/2008
Pages: 324

The novel opens with a grave being dug by Henry and Jamie for their father in the farm that Henry owns. There is an atmospheric feel to it because of impending rains. Both want to finish the burial before it pours.

It is 1939 and Laura a Memphis school teacher, at thirty one years is resigned to the fate of spinster whn she meets Henry. After courtship of some months, they get married and live in Memphis where they have two daughters. But Henry McAllan buys a cotton farm in remote Mississippi without telling her and she is forced to move there. And circumstances makes them stay in a house which has no running water, no electricity and no bathroom, other than an outhouse. And come rains, the ramshackle farm is cut of from civililzation, and they are bound only with mud. Although Laura isn't vocal about it, but she doesn't like her situation one bit. She also hates the fact that Pappy, Henry's father comes to live with them.

Intermingled to their lives are the Jacksons, the black sharecroppers working on Henry's land. Florence is hired by Henry to help Laura at the house. She does it happily enough as she needs the money. Florence is a midwife too, who is much sought after. Hap, along with working on Henry's land also acts as preacher of sorts for the blacks and coloured people in that remote place.

It was that time when white people and black people were not friends, and did not socialise together. Although the whites let the blacks work on their fields but hated to socialise with them.

When World War II ends, Henry's brother Jamie comes to the farm and also Ronsel, Jackson's son to returns from the very same war. Both have their own demons to kill. An unlikely friendship develops between the two, which brings forth racial tensions in that place, which brings about the inevitable tragedy. This brings more sorrow for both the families.

Told in the voices of Jamie, Laura, Henry, Ronsel, Florence and Hap, it gives us glimpses into everyone thoughts and the interactions between the families. Of all the character, Pappy has not been given a voice but that only enhances his evil persona. The racial tensions are felt by us all throughout the book. Right from the beginning, there is a sense of doom, which concludes in tragedy. And redemption comes from unexpectedly and from the unlikeliest source. Jordan's descriptions are very vivid too. People and places come out alive right in front of us.

The questions asked by Ronsel are very disturbing. A novel that grips right from the first page. And does not leave the mind long after finishing it. What I really liked is that she has given voices to blacks too. A very important aspect.

Jordan's descriptions are very vivid too. People and places come out alive right in front of us.

16 comments:

Missy said...

I have really been wanting to read this! It is currently on my wish list. Thanks for the review, it really sounds good!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This book has gotten some good reviews. It certainly sounds interesting. I'm wondering, is the title a play on the mudsill theory? (U.S. Southern plantation owners used to say that it was necessary for the darker races to perform the dirty work so that the white race could advance.)

Meghan said...

I have wanted to read this book for a very long time now. Thanks for the review - now I want to read it even more!

farmlanebooks said...

I loved this book! It isso simple, but so powerful. I flew through it. Great review!

Kim said...

I am about 1/2 way through this right now and I have been sucked in on page 1. It is much more intense than I thought it would be--and you are right about the foreshadowing from the beginning--you just know something real bad is going to happen. So, even though I am racing through it, and dare I say enjoying it, I have also a bit of dread for what is coming.
*smiles*
Kim

____Maggie said...

http://maggiereads.blogspot.com/2008/04/mudbound-copy.html

This was my booktalk for Mudbound last year! Very powerful book! Thanks for reading it for the Southern Reading Challenge! Two chances to win pecans, you go gurl!

Pam said...

Thanks for linking my review here. What a pleasant surprise. I am new to your blog, but really like how thorough your reviews are. I will be looking forward to reading more of them. Thanks again.

rebeca@alvahsbooks.com said...

Great review! I'll be looking for this book at my library--once I pay my overdue fees :-)

Luanne said...

thank you so much for linking to my review. Mudbound was an absolutely riveting read - one that stayed with me long after I finished it. I'm glad you enjoyed it as well - great review!

Scrap girl said...

Thanks for the link - I shall do the same. Great review - I am glad you enjoyed it.

Teddy Rose said...

I also loved it! Thanks for the link! I linked yours as well.

Sharon said...

Can't wait to get to this one!

bermudaonion said...

Your review is so good it made me sigh. I've added this book to my wish list.

Nise' said...

Read this one last week! Good one.

Yolanda said...

I want to read this too.

katrina said...

I just read this for the Southern Challenge too, I agree a strong story - particuarly Ronsels last paragraph. Great review