Sunday, February 19, 2012
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
Author: Hillary Jordan
Recommended To: Sharecroppers, children who enjoy playing in the mud.
Mudbound is set in the Mississippi Delta in the 1950s. The majority of the story takes place on a farm where the white landowners employ white and black sharecropping families to work the land. The book is written as a serious of shorts told by six different characters.
Two of the characters fight in the Second World War and when they return, challenge the ideas of race in the extremely small town, and small minded, Delta. The female voice of the story, Laura, is moved by her husband from the clean, bright city that she's familiar with to a muddy mess of a farm. There, she has to learn how to work on a farm without any modern conveniences. That sounds tacky, but its not. Think how hard it would be to go from running water, to well water overnight.
This book is deeply layered and unspeakably intense. There are many themes at work in Mudbound; race, emotional abuse, violence, adultery. The tension in this book builds and finally comes to a breaking point about 3/4 of the way through the novel and it is a hell of a breaking point. The characters in this book are not stereotypes, which seems to be an easy trap for authors of the sharecropping South, but instead are thought provoking and multi-faceted. I kept thinking about this book for several days and that is certainly one of my criteria for a five star or a B+ book.
Apparently Hillary Jordan has written a second book called When She Woke, which according to her website is a play on The Scarlet Letter. Reviews on Amazon lead me to believe that it is a little too close to The Scarlet Letter to be that good, but I will likely give it a shot. This Kindle was the best thing I've bought in a long time.