Mudbound Info

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The International Bestseller Now a major motion picture from
Netflix, directed by Dee Rees, nominated in four categories for the
Academy Awards. 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 Barbara 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."

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Mudbound:

4

Sep 15, 2008

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A family tale set in the 1930s and ‘40s, Mudbound looks at the racial experience, divide, and struggle in the Deep South, from diverse points of view.


Hillary Jordan - image from NPR

Two families, one black, one white, tied to the land, to each other, and stuck in the muck of a racist world. Jordan uses multiple narrators to offer varying perspectives on the events of the story. Laura, a Memphis schoolteacher, is on the fast track to old-maid-hood after her 30th birthday, when she is introduced A family tale set in the 1930s and ‘40s, Mudbound looks at the racial experience, divide, and struggle in the Deep South, from diverse points of view.


Hillary Jordan - image from NPR

Two families, one black, one white, tied to the land, to each other, and stuck in the muck of a racist world. Jordan uses multiple narrators to offer varying perspectives on the events of the story. Laura, a Memphis schoolteacher, is on the fast track to old-maid-hood after her 30th birthday, when she is introduced to Henry McAllan. He is smitten, and she likes him well enough. Marriage is fine with her, but when a death in the family throws long-term plans onto the scrapheap, Henry announces that in two weeks they will be moving to a remote part of Mississippi to take over a farm. It comes to be called Mudbound, for obvious reasons. The novel merges struggles with racism with views of the hardships of farming life.


Rob Morgan as Hap Jackson and Jason Mitchell as Ronsel Jackson - image from RottenTomatoes.com

Two soldiers, one black, one white, return to town from World War II in Europe. Henry’s brother Jamie is a much (19 years) younger man, charming, a pilot, damaged by his war experience, (turning to alcohol to try to smother his recent visions of war and his still-sharp recollection of a near-death experience he’d had as a child) and of dubious character in any case. (Is there really any there there?) He becomes friends with Ronsel Jackson, the black son of one of Henry’s tenants, a successful, handsome member of a black tank corps. He had been a hero in Germany, was accepted there and in other parts of Europe as a man, a liberator, not as a black, but back home, the deep south remains the deep south and bigotry defines the limits of civilization, that form of madness personified by Henry and Jamie’s vile father, Pappy.


Jonathan Banks as Pappy McAllan – image from Stimme.de

This was a very fast read, a page-turner. Jordan does a nice job of slowly ramping up the tension until the climactic action.


Carey Mulligan as Laura McAllan – image from collider.com

She has given us a portrait of a particular place in a particular time. I do not believe it to have been her purpose to tell a tale of the modern age (the book was published in 2006), yet it is impossible not to think of the blue on black violence that has tormented the nation and relate it to the overt racial violence of the mid 20th century South.


Mary J. Blige as Florence Jackson - image from RottenTomatoes.com

Although one might see Laura as the core of this story, and that is where the story began for Jordan, I believe it is Jamie around whom everything else moves. His relationship with Laura, the up and the down, help her define her relationship with Henry and with the world. His relationship with Ronsel is crucial to the dramatic events that follow. It is in the light of his personality that others see themselves more clearly. Laura was the first, and only, voice for some while. Mudbound started as a short writing exercise in grad school. The assignment was to write 3 pages in the voice of a family member, so I decided to write about my grandparents’ farm — a sort of mythic place I’d grown up hearing about, which actually was called Mudbound — from my grandmother’s point of view. My teacher liked what I wrote and encouraged me to continue, and I tried to write a short story. Nana became Laura, a fictional character who is much more fiery and rebellious than my grandmother ever was, and the story got longer and longer. At 50 pages I realized I was writing a novel, and that’s when I decided to introduce the other voices. Jamie came next, then Henry, then Florence, then Hap. Ronsel wasn’t even a character until I had about 150 pages! And of course, when he entered the story, he changed its course dramatically. - from Loaded Questions interviewThere is much here about being heard, who can speak, and who, ultimately, is silenced.


Garrett Hedlund as Jamie McAllan

I have seen criticism about the use of stock characters here, and that is not without merit. Southern bigots are given only one coat of paint, as are strong black characters. Nonetheless, and in particular considering that this is a first novel, it is forgivable. Mudbound is a fine read, offering interesting characters, and a poignant view of race relations in the South, particularly after World War II. It is well worth the ride. It appears that the film that has been made of the novel has not only done it justice but maybe even exceeded the original material.

Published 2006

Review Posted – originally in 2008 – reworked on release of the film in November 2017

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal and Twitter pages

The Netflix site for the Mudbound film

Interviews
-----NPR - March 14, 2008 - Racism and Family Secrets in 'Mudbound’ - by Lynn Neary Jordan says Mudbound was inspired by her mother's family stories of the year they spent on an isolated farm without running water or electricity. Eventually, it grew into a larger story with darker themes. But the first character she wrote about, Laura, was based on her own grandmother.
"I started out writing what I thought was going to be a short story in the voice of Laura," Jordan says, "and as the story grew, I just found myself wanting to hear from other people. As the story got larger, as it embraced these other themes, these larger themes about war and about Jim Crow, I wanted to hear from those people. -----Loaded Questions – July 19, 2008 - Interview with Hillary Jordan - by Kelly Hewitt
-----Talks With Teachers - Skyping with Hillary Jordan of Mudbound - by Brian Sztabnik She had grammar rules for each character. For example, Laura is the only character to use a semicolon because she is the most educated. Henry’s sentences always end with a period because everything is a full stop for him. Hap has long, run-on sentences because he is a preacher.

Mudbound took six years and 11 drafts to complete, but she was not writing full time for those six years. ...more
5

Oct 15, 2018

This novel is so moving, so relatable, and so tragic that I can’t imagine any reader being left untouched by its six narrators and the fierce, loving, and horrific story they share in the telling.

I found this story so gripping that I could barely stand to put it down; so filled with potential tragedy and disaster that I reluctantly picked it up again. Yet, I was compelled to do so. There is no way in the world that I could close my eyes and heart to this story without suffering in my ignorance. This novel is so moving, so relatable, and so tragic that I can’t imagine any reader being left untouched by its six narrators and the fierce, loving, and horrific story they share in the telling.

I found this story so gripping that I could barely stand to put it down; so filled with potential tragedy and disaster that I reluctantly picked it up again. Yet, I was compelled to do so. There is no way in the world that I could close my eyes and heart to this story without suffering in my ignorance. I had to know, I had to be there with these people, I had to find out how their stories would end.

Hillary Jordan spent seven years writing this book and I can only imagine the emotional turmoil she experienced while writing these people’s perspectives. During the time written about in Mississippi, World War II was also related with fresh voices. Narrated by Ronsel, we learn of the 10’s of thousands of black men who fought in the war for the U.S., who achieved military honours and status designations that are rarely heard about.

We learn of how they are treated as heroes and as equals by the people they met in Europe, and how they returned home – not heroes – but with demands that they lower their eyes, leave a store by the back door, sit in the back of a truck or a car or a bus; say, “Yassuh” when addressed by a white person.

From Henry, Laura, Florence and Hap we learn about the farming methods back then and how challenging it was for anyone to make a decent living in an area subject to extremes in weather and rivers flooding. We learn not just about people’s needs, such as food, shelter, health, and for love, but also their wants – and how basic wants can sometimes create havoc in obtaining basic needs.

From Jamie we learn about the dangers of taking on the status quo – when even doing the right thing (and things one wants to do for themselves) can have unbelievably shocking consequences for oneself, but even more so for others.

There is so much to learn about in this book – some that is familiar, and some set in a frame that is far less known and far less discussed.

This novel and the people who drive the story forward will remain in my heart and memory for a long time to come. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has not yet read it. The only requirement is an open mind and an open heart – this story and the people in it will do all the rest. ...more
5

Oct 16, 2017

Set just after the end of World War Two in 1946, this is a harsh Southern novel that encapsulates the Jim Crow era. It is set in the Mississippi Delta on a cotton farm, where life is hard and the work is backbreaking, and the brown colour dominates the mudbound landscape. With a mother fearful that her daughter would be left on the shelf, Laura marries Henry McAllan, a World War 1 veteran. Soon after, he moves them to the farm. City bred Laura finds her new surroundings a shock, both demanding Set just after the end of World War Two in 1946, this is a harsh Southern novel that encapsulates the Jim Crow era. It is set in the Mississippi Delta on a cotton farm, where life is hard and the work is backbreaking, and the brown colour dominates the mudbound landscape. With a mother fearful that her daughter would be left on the shelf, Laura marries Henry McAllan, a World War 1 veteran. Soon after, he moves them to the farm. City bred Laura finds her new surroundings a shock, both demanding and challenging. And then there is Henry's father, Pappy, a horrifying individual, full of bigotry and hate, who terrifies Laura and her children. This is a story of two families, the McAllans and the black Jacksons, bound uncomfortably together through their sharecropping agreements. The narrative is delivered from the perspectives of the two family members as events move to the inevitable beats of their conclusions and the part each of them plays in the tragedy.

Two decorated soldiers return, the sensitive younger brother of Henry, Jamie, a pilot, and a different man. in comparison to Henry, and Laura is drawn to him. Ronsel Jackson served in the black tank divisions in Europe, and experienced what equality feels like there, only to return to the deeply entrenched racial divisions of home, where he and other black folk are seen as less than human. The two men form a friendship based on their common nightmarish war experiences for which they both turn to alcohol. However, the townsfolk are stirred to anger at the sight of a friendship that crosses their rigid demarcation of racial lines. This is a story of a marriage, women's roles, family dynamics, injustice, race and brutality. In effect, this is a raw and heartbreaking history of the US in a period of social change. Jordan develops her characters beautifully, giving us access to what they think and feel to catch a turbulent and divisive era. A brilliant read that I highly recommend. Many thanks to Random House Cornerstone for an ARC. ...more
4

May 09, 2018

4.5 stars

This was really an incredible, powerfully written novel about the Jim Crow south immediately following World War II. Set in the Mississippi Delta, Mudbound will cause you to feel mired in the muck of the land as well as in the hatred and bigotry of this place and time.

It is a story about two families, one black – the Jacksons, and one white – the McAllans, who become inextricably linked to one another. Laura is a city girl, on the brink of being labeled ‘old maid.’ When Henry McAllan 4.5 stars

This was really an incredible, powerfully written novel about the Jim Crow south immediately following World War II. Set in the Mississippi Delta, Mudbound will cause you to feel mired in the muck of the land as well as in the hatred and bigotry of this place and time.

It is a story about two families, one black – the Jacksons, and one white – the McAllans, who become inextricably linked to one another. Laura is a city girl, on the brink of being labeled ‘old maid.’ When Henry McAllan rescues her from spinsterhood, she didn’t realize that her life would be significantly altered when Henry decides to fulfill a lifelong dream of purchasing a piece of his own land. Laura’s career as a teacher and her relatively easy living under the roof of her parent’s home in Memphis have in no way prepared her for the life of a farmwife in a backwoods part of the country.

"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."

Initially I worried that the structure of the novel might not work for me. The events are told from multiple perspectives in alternating chapters. We hear from three of the McAllans – Laura, Jamie and Henry as well as three of the Jacksons – Florence, Ronsel and Hap. To my surprise, author Hillary Jordan managed to pull this off with much finesse, and I appreciated each individual viewpoint. By hearing from each of these characters, we gain a greater understanding of the complexity of the relationships between them. Nothing is simple; life is difficult, unjust and oftentimes downright cruel.

Laura strikes up a friendship, albeit a complex one, with Florence Jackson, wife to the McAllan’s tenant, Hap Jackson. The friendship begins out of necessity, loneliness and the bond the two women share – that of motherhood. When Florence’s son returns from the war a decorated hero, another relationship develops between this young man, Ronsel, and Henry McAllan’s troubled, younger brother, Jamie, also recently returned from the horrors of wartime Europe. These bonds are further complicated by the existence of Pappy, the McAllan’s father, a loathsome and racist old man. He embodies all that is vile in the Jim Crow south, full of bitterness, misunderstanding, hatred and fear. The rain, the mud, and the tension constantly lurk in the reader’s mind throughout the entirety of the novel. Like a storm gathering and threatening on the horizon, one knows that all will eventually come to a head and let loose all the pent up rage and menacing violence. I really couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and resented the numerous interruptions while reading this book!

This is a fairly quick read that is yet very meaningful. A myriad of issues are examined here besides the obvious one of racism. Marriage, sharecropping, infidelity, post-traumatic stress disorder, and motherhood are all touched upon with thoughtful care. The subject matter is weighty, but this book is extremely worthwhile and one I would highly recommend. ...more
5

Jan 21, 2009

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 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
5

Nov 26, 2017

4.5 Stars

Through the eyes and ears and thoughts of these two families –one black, one white – with a total of six people, we get a small glimpse of life in the post-war 1930’s and 40’s living in the Mississippi Delta region. Life on a cotton farm with its never-ending physical demands. All the mud.

From Laura we hear her thoughts a total of twelve times throughout this story. From Jamie, seven times, from Ronsel, five times, from Henry, four times. From Hap and Florence, four times each. You 4.5 Stars

Through the eyes and ears and thoughts of these two families –one black, one white – with a total of six people, we get a small glimpse of life in the post-war 1930’s and 40’s living in the Mississippi Delta region. Life on a cotton farm with its never-ending physical demands. All the mud.

From Laura we hear her thoughts a total of twelve times throughout this story. From Jamie, seven times, from Ronsel, five times, from Henry, four times. From Hap and Florence, four times each. You might think that makes this primarily Laura’s story, but it is a shared story of all those in both families, how they arrived at the places they did, and how the era and the people, including the townspeople, own a piece of this story, as does the land – the mud. It is as much a part of this story as any character.

”But I must start at the beginning, if I can find it. Beginnings are elusive things. Just when you think you have hold of one, you look back and see another, earlier beginning, and an earlier one before that.”

Laura wasn’t raised to this life, the life of a farmer’s wife. When she first meets Henry, it is the spring of 1939, and she is thirty-one “a spinster well on my way to petrification,” an English teacher for a private school for boys, living in her parents’ home, where she grew up in Memphis.

They have a very proper courtship, Henry is an educated man, who grew up on a farm, but has a job as a successful engineer. She begins to have a small degree of hope.

Eventually Laura meets his brother, Jamie, time passes, and eventually Henry and Laura marry. It isn’t long before she finds herself living on a farm, which is more of a farm-to-be, mostly mud when she first sees it. It goes from bad to worse, and it’s a while before things begin to go from worse to better, and even then, there’s Henry’s father, Pappy, who represents the worst of the Jim Crow South in this small town in the middle of Mississippi.

”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.

“When it rained, as it often did, the yard turned into a thick gumbo, with the house floating in it like a soggy cracker. When the rains came hard, the river rose and swallowed the bridge that was the only way across. The world was on the other side of that bridge, the world of light bulbs and paved roads and shirts that stayed white. When the river rose, the world was lost to us and we to it.”

Racism, which is always present to some degree, really begins to rear its ugly head when Jamie comes to the farm, returning from WWII, around the same time that Ronsel, the son of the black sharecropper family that farm part of their land returns, as well. While Jamie has no problem befriending Ronsel, the townspeople have an issue with it. As time passes, these two families never foresaw the toll this would take, the repercussions for either family.

This story pulled me back and forth through time, and through the thoughts of these various characters. A beautifully written, often heartbreaking, spellbinding and horrifying story, this still was a book that was hard for me to put down.

“ What we can’t speak, we say in silence.”



Many thanks, once again, to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep it running, for the loan of this book! ...more
2

May 28, 2012

Social justice (and literature) lite

This book and I hit it off at first. It’s a quick, easy read and I enjoyed the first 2/3 or so. But looking back, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Mudbound is about two families living in the Mississippi Delta: one black and one white. It’s 1946 and racial tensions are high: the black GIs returning from WW2 are no longer willing to put up with being second-class citizens, but the white population is equally unwilling to allow change. The book is written in Social justice (and literature) lite

This book and I hit it off at first. It’s a quick, easy read and I enjoyed the first 2/3 or so. But looking back, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Mudbound is about two families living in the Mississippi Delta: one black and one white. It’s 1946 and racial tensions are high: the black GIs returning from WW2 are no longer willing to put up with being second-class citizens, but the white population is equally unwilling to allow change. The book is written in the first person from 6 (six!) different viewpoints (and a debut novel at that.... had I not loved Jordan’s When She Woke I would never have attempted this), including Ronsel (a black soldier), Hap and Florence (his parents), Jaime (a white soldier), Henry (his older brother) and Laura (Henry’s wife). To her credit, Jordan does do a passable job with the multiple narrators, who don’t sound too much alike--the streamlined nature of the writing, without much figurative language or description, helps with this, and the dialect works well enough without being impenetrable.

As I said, I liked the story at first; it drew me in quickly and entertained me. But there isn’t much more I can say for it. So, then, the problems:

THE PLOT: Terribly predictable (and melodramatic). One-third of the way through I predicted all the dramatic events that would happen in the rest of the book. And I’m not usually good at that.

THE CHARACTERS: The black family are stock characters of the “sympathetic victims” variety: hardworking, family-values folk. Hap is the forgiving, scripture-quoting preacher. Florence is the closer-to-earth midwife. Ronsel is the bright young guy who's beat down by the system. They have potential but are too stuck in their stock roles and personalities to realize it.

The white family is more complex (they’re allowed to have flaws), but not much more. Henry is a simple man who loves farming: exactly the same on the inside as he appears from the outside. His father, Pappy, is the stock evil racist with no redeeming qualities. Laura gets a lot of page time (and her voice feels the most authentic), but she’s pathetic; she’s pathetically grateful to Henry for marrying her at the ripe old age of 31 and despite a few attempts to act for herself, she’s still pathetic at the end. (Bizarrely, in an interview in the back of the book Jordan states that Laura is based on her own grandmother, but "much more fiery and rebellious"--since neither adjective describes Laura in the slightest, I can only conclude either that Jordan's grandmother was an automaton, or, more likely, that Jordan utterly failed at turning the idea in her head into a character on the page.) Jamie is the most interesting of the bunch: he seems like a basically good guy whose PTSD leads him into destructive behavior, and he’s racist in a subtle, Huckleberry-Finn kind of way (at least, the other white characters make him look subtle; more on that later).

THE SETTING: Black and white, in more ways than one. Essentially, the rural South = bad; cities, or anywhere in Europe = good. “Violence is part and parcel of country life,” Laura tells us, and to prove the point, Jordan includes a family of bit-part characters that do nothing but rape, murder, and drunkenly shoot off guns (and these are the only farm people we meet aside from the main characters). The Mississippi Delta is full of violent racists, while the Memphis-bred Laura has apparently never even heard of Jim Crow. Europe, meanwhile, is a colorblind paradise; even German women are happy to sleep with black men and have their babies mere months after their own government finished murdering millions of pale-skinned people for not being white enough. (I’m not disputing that similar liaisons happened, but I do dispute the “colorblind paradise” portrayal. Read Andrea Levy’s Small Island for a more nuanced portrayal of wartime and post-war England; as for Germany, well, I should think the attempt to massacre all non-Aryans to create a "master race" speaks for itself.) Finally, Jordan’s failure to get even easily verifiable facts right makes me doubt her overall portrayal. The two closest towns to the McAllens’ farm are Greenville and Marietta.... and while Greenville really is a Delta town, Marietta is actually over 200 miles away in the northeast part of the state.

THE MESSAGE: Several underwhelmed reviewers have mocked the Bellwether Prize, which is meant to recognize a book that advances social justice in some way. I think the prize is a good idea. But the Washington Post nailed this one: “the book doesn't challenge our prejudices so much as give us the easy satisfaction of feeling superior to these evil Southerners.” The thing is, to advance social justice, you have to be timely. Tackle, say, the drug war’s disproportionate impact on minority communities, the poor quality of education in inner-city schools, the location of environmental hazards in minority neighborhoods. There’s no end to current social justice issues that Jordan might have written about. Instead, her message is one that even most unreformed racists of today wouldn’t dispute: racially motivated hate crimes are bad, folks! It's no wonder most people like this book: its message is so uncontroversial that nobody is uncomfortable with it. But you can't change society by hammering home points everybody already agrees with.

(In fairness to Jordan, her second novel does take on timely, controversial issues; predictably, its reception has been more mixed. But it’s also so much better.)

In the end, I don’t hate this book. If you want a quick, unchallenging read about the evils of racism, it may be the book for you. If you’re looking for some redeeming social or literary value, though, best look elsewhere. ...more
4

Feb 07, 2019

My vacation is over and with it a return to active reading. Last year I didn’t pick up a book for the entire month of February and I attributed it to the winter blahs. Truthfully, it is because last year my team lost the Super Bowl; this year it is a much different story. It is amazing how much winning has helped my mood. Two years ago my favorite teams won the World Series and Super Bowl three months apart and I went on to read over 200 books. I doubt I’ll approach that again until my kids are My vacation is over and with it a return to active reading. Last year I didn’t pick up a book for the entire month of February and I attributed it to the winter blahs. Truthfully, it is because last year my team lost the Super Bowl; this year it is a much different story. It is amazing how much winning has helped my mood. Two years ago my favorite teams won the World Series and Super Bowl three months apart and I went on to read over 200 books. I doubt I’ll approach that again until my kids are out of the house but it was such a positive feeling. Getting back on track, last year during my winter blahs the Southern literary trail group here on goodreads read Mudbound by Hilary Jordan. The book sounded intriguing but I was not in a mindset to join in. New year, new reading goals, one of which is reading many of the group and buddy reads that I missed out on last year. Mudbound is the first of those reads and appropriately enough, I finished this historical fiction set in 1940s Mississippi during black history month.

Hilary Jordan’s debut novel received national best seller status and became a Netflix movie. It is the post war 1940s and the McAllen family has moved to the Mississippi Delta to try their hand at farming. Henry McAllen has always wanted a farm, whereas his city bred wife Laura pines for her family in Memphis. Leaving behind civilization, the McAllens move to a farm, which Laura names Mudbound. Henry keeps on three tenant families to assist with the harvest, one of which is the African American Jacksons, who are determined to own their own land one day. They place all of their hopes and dreams on their son Ronsel, a sergeant in the 761st Black Panther Tanker regiment.

Laura’s resentment of farming did not make a full novel so Jordan has told her story in six voices: Henry, Laura; Hap, Florence, and Ronsel Jackson; and Henry’s younger brother Jamie, a decorated Air Force pilot returning from combat missions over Germany. Each of the six characters carried old southern prejudices. That the United States had just defeated fascism in Europe was lost on southern gentlemen who still viewed blacks as less than human. While Henry did not openly espouse these views, his father known as Pappy did, which created a tension between family members on the farm. The tension grew worse when Jamie returned from Europe after having seen the horrors of war and fighting off ghosts. He saw African Americans honorably fighting for their country, and, while he may not have been ready to call them his equal, Jamie did believe in respect for war veterans and did not see African Americans as less than human.

Jordan’s has prose is not spectacular but she moved the story between voices well enough to hold my interest throughout. What I found interesting is that she herself is not from the Delta region but that she created characters as archetypes for the south at a changing time. African Americans who fought to defeat the Germans abroad came home to a society that was not quite ready to view them as equal to whites, and struggled to settle in to old world views. The friendship between Jamie McAllen and Ronsel Jackson pinpoints that the younger generation saw the changing, modern world, yet their parents still saw things literally in black and white. With many respectable white southerners still holding membership in the Ku Klux Klan, African Americans realized that in order to achieve the American Dream that they would have to leave the south or be put in their place. Even forward thinking people as Jamie and Laura McAllen were not quite ready in the 1940s to live a life side by side with African Americans as their equals.

That I started reading Mudbound on what would have been Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday was not lost on me. Almost concurrently to the story being played out in the Mississippi Delta, Jackie played his role to integrate American society. I wonder how Pappy McAllen, a man who enjoyed listening to ball games on the radio, would have reacted to hearing about Jackie’s exploits on the baseball diamond. I doubt the reaction would have been a positive one. February moves on. Baseball season starts in only seven weeks so perhaps the winter blahs will not be so bad this year after all. With stories like Mudbound chock full of intriguing group discussion points, I will be sure to stay in a positive mindset through the rest of the winter.

3.5 stars rounded up (prose could have been a little stronger) ...more
4

Jan 27, 2017

It is wonderful that an author can write something like this as their debut novel. I enjoyed it so much!
I liked the way the author presented each chapter from the point of view of a different character. This way we got to discover what each individual was really like rather than seeing them only from another persons view. It was very noticeable that one character was never given this opportunity to speak and it was a good thing!
The book opens in a very captivating way with a scene which is It is wonderful that an author can write something like this as their debut novel. I enjoyed it so much!
I liked the way the author presented each chapter from the point of view of a different character. This way we got to discover what each individual was really like rather than seeing them only from another persons view. It was very noticeable that one character was never given this opportunity to speak and it was a good thing!
The book opens in a very captivating way with a scene which is repeated towards the end. I had to go back and read it again to reinterpret it with the knowledge I had gained from reading the book. It was very cleverly done. I was also grateful for the author's input at the end which lets us know what probably happened to the characters later in life. I often dislike books which leave me to draw my own conclusions and I was very satisfied to see what was going to happen to Ronsel. He deserved a good life.
A very good book, well written and enjoyable despite its uncomfortable subject matter. ...more
5

Apr 04, 2018

Mudbound is a story of two families, one black and one white, living in post World War II Mississippi and farming the same land, one as a landholder and the other as a tenant. Two of the characters, Jaime McAllen and Ronsel Jackson, are young men who have just returned from the war and who have experienced things that link them more to one another than to their own communities. But, a friendship between a white man and a black man is not just risky, it is forbidden, and there is a sense of Mudbound is a story of two families, one black and one white, living in post World War II Mississippi and farming the same land, one as a landholder and the other as a tenant. Two of the characters, Jaime McAllen and Ronsel Jackson, are young men who have just returned from the war and who have experienced things that link them more to one another than to their own communities. But, a friendship between a white man and a black man is not just risky, it is forbidden, and there is a sense of impending doom that hangs over the novel as it progresses.

The picture we are given is a remarkably complete one, in that there is racism of varying degrees from friendship that conquers the barrier to absolute, Klan-style hatred, blind and unfeeling and dehumanizing. These characters are complex people with complicated feelings toward one another, and the hatred that possesses Pappy is not limited to people of another color. He is an evil man who mistreats his sons and misses no opportunity to make everyone around him unhappy. Laura and Florence attempt to bridge the gap and hold on to what is essentially human in one another, and they manage to do this primarily by recognizing the thing they have in common, motherhood.

It is my experience that few modern authors are able to give a fair depiction of the Jim Crow south. Either every character is the devil incarnate, looking for someone they can torture of lynch, or they are drawn like caricatures of real people, without true emotions or feelings. Hillary Jordan managed to treat all of her characters with the respect that they deserved. Life at this time was hard for anyone living in rural Mississippi and, while change was coming, it was coming slowly to this area and with much resistance. If you take away the racial barriers, who is a sick man like Pappy ever going to feel superior to? Mudbound is an unflinching look at the horrors that were virtually inseparable from the society itself and the price that was paid by those who were caught in the hardtack life of the Jim Crow South, and a read worth steeling yourself for.

...more
4

Dec 02, 2017

I always find it odd to say I loved a book when the story told is unpleasant. Actually, unpleasant is not a strong enough word, horrific is probably more accurate. This story is about many things but I think the main focus is on bigotry and racism. It takes place just after WW II in rural Mississippi and is told by several POV's, all of them main players in what happens.

I never summarize plots in my "reviews", just how a book made me feel and this one made me feel a lot. Highly recommend.
5

May 10, 2013

This wonderful books was a pleasant surprise for me... Must read... You would think that with Uncle Tom's Cabin and with Roots we had enough of such topics... but no... Unfortunately due to no marketing efforts from the publisher the book went unnoticed on Serbian market... Pity, great book!
4

Oct 03, 2012

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan is a extremely well written and thought provoking novel.
The literary structure of this book is very compelling, telling the same story from the perspective of the different characters really brings out the emotion of this Novel. A tough read but a rewarding one and a book where the characters will stay with me.


The characters are fully developed and very real and I was able to visualise each and every one of them. A gripping story of race relations, families, Mudbound by Hillary Jordan is a extremely well written and thought provoking novel.
The literary structure of this book is very compelling, telling the same story from the perspective of the different characters really brings out the emotion of this Novel. A tough read but a rewarding one and a book where the characters will stay with me.


The characters are fully developed and very real and I was able to visualise each and every one of them. A gripping story of race relations, families, marriage, and war, a story that I found heartbreaking and shocking.
As I always say "Its good to be shocked every now and then".

I recently watched the movie of this book and it was extremely well done.

I read this as a book club read and I think it will make for a great discussion. ...more
5

Jun 06, 2014

Mudbound is a story set in the Mississippi delta country in 1946. It is about complex relations between a white family that owns the land and a black family that helps to farm the land. It is also about war and the Jim Crow conditions that existed in the South during that era.

Hillary Jordan, in her debut novel, took on the daunting task of presenting the story through the eyes of six different narrators. That would seem to be difficult enough, but making it even more difficult is the fact that Mudbound is a story set in the Mississippi delta country in 1946. It is about complex relations between a white family that owns the land and a black family that helps to farm the land. It is also about war and the Jim Crow conditions that existed in the South during that era.

Hillary Jordan, in her debut novel, took on the daunting task of presenting the story through the eyes of six different narrators. That would seem to be difficult enough, but making it even more difficult is the fact that there are both male and female narrators. Furthermore, three are white and three are black.

The book (published in 2008) received almost universal critical acclaim. However (there almost always seems to be a however), I read one review which criticized the bouncing back and forth created by alternating narrators, saying that it disrupted the flow of the story. I don’t buy that. I agree that if it had not been done with skill, it would have been a distraction. But it was done with great skill.

I was reminded of David Payne’s very fine novel, Ruin Creek (1993), in which he expertly told the story from the respective viewpoints of male and female narrators of different generations. But Jordan, who is white, did something even more daring by speaking with the voice of three black narrators, one female and two males – and she pulled it off.

All of the principal characters are flawed to some degree or the other, but all have some redeeming qualities – except one. Pappy is a racist bigot of the worst kind. He hates black people, but then he doesn’t have much use for white people either. He is a born hater.

The reviewer who wrote the critical review mentioned earlier, found fault with how this character was presented, that he was unrealistic to the point of being “cartoonish.” But he isn’t unrealistic; his type did exist, in fact, still exists. Times have changed, but people with Pappy’s warped vision still exist in our society today.

The reviewer summed up her criticism by saying that in the final analysis the novel failed because nobody “changed,” and therefore what was the point? Well, the point might be, guess what, people don’t always change. Sometimes there is no repentance or redemption. I suppose she expected them all to hold hands and sing Kumbaya at the end. But in this story, that would have been cartoonish.

Reading this novel was like watching a slow motion train wreck that was about to occur. I knew something bad was going to happen, but I was powerless to do anything about it. It is not a good book for light summer reading at the beach, but it is a thought provoking book that deserves the wide readership that it has experienced and the favorable reviews that it has received.

I ran across an interview with the author in which she is considering a sequel. Sequels are rarely as good as the original, but I would like to see what happens to these characters down the road. Who knows, maybe they will change.

P.S. ~ Yes, I did focus on the negative review above, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that there are a number of excellent, positive reviews of this book here at GR's and I recommend them for your reading enjoyment.
...more
5

Oct 11, 2011

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 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
5

Oct 19, 2011

Aren’t there times you wish you could give a book more than 5 stars? Like The Help or The Kitchen House, this is one of those books I guess which will continue to resonate, and linger in the mind. It's told by each character in turn, so we hear lots of different voices as the tale progresses, and we can witness the way they see the events unfolding. It reads a bit like a thriller, where the tension is building up and you know something bad is going to happen.
It's set in the Delta (Mississippi) Aren’t there times you wish you could give a book more than 5 stars? Like The Help or The Kitchen House, this is one of those books I guess which will continue to resonate, and linger in the mind. It's told by each character in turn, so we hear lots of different voices as the tale progresses, and we can witness the way they see the events unfolding. It reads a bit like a thriller, where the tension is building up and you know something bad is going to happen.
It's set in the Delta (Mississippi) just after World War Two. We experience that in the Deep South of the USA little had changed since the abolition of slavery.
It’s powerful and dramatic and so well-written that it was hard to put down. This is an impressive first novel. Hilary Jordan did a fantastic job giving these characters a real voice, letting them speak in their specific languages. I could hear Hap and Florence and it was like they were talking directly to me.
To me Ronsel is the real hero and I hope that all the "could have beens" at the end turn out to become reality for this exceptional young man.
If you are looking for a beautiful, human, intelligent and gripping read, look no further.
...more
4

Nov 13, 2013

Mudbound: Hillary Jordan's Debut Novel


Hillary Jordan, 2011

JAMIE

"Henry and I dug the hole seven feet deep. Any more 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, re-formed 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 thoughts and memories."

Henry and Jamie McAllan are Mudbound: Hillary Jordan's Debut Novel


Hillary Jordan, 2011

JAMIE

"Henry and I dug the hole seven feet deep. Any more 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, re-formed 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 thoughts and memories."

Henry and Jamie McAllan are brothers digging the grave for their father, Pappy. In the words of Shakespeare, "Nothing became him in life like the leaving it."

To cut to the chase, Hillary Jordanwrote a fine debut novel. The setting is the Mississippi Delta in 1946. Big brother Henry, a veteran of World War One, and a hard working member of the Corp of Army Engineers, marries city bred Laura of Memphis, Tennessee. Laura is thirty-one, an English teacher, whose mother had feared she would die an old maid.

Following their marriage, Laura is shocked to learn that Henry always wanted to be a farmer. He has bought two hundred acres of rich Delta dirt and packs Laura and their two daughters off to a wonderful home which he had rented for them to live in while he worked the farm. However, Henry, ever trustful, has been duped. When they arrive at the home, Henry and family learn that the previous owner has sold the home. With all the soldiers returning from World War Two, there are no other houses to rent.


Mississippi Delta Cotton Field

Not only does Henry need a home for his wife and daughters, he needs one for his Pappy. Pappy is a curmudgeonly old man who tyrannizes Laura and terrifies his granddaughters.

It's off to Henry's farm which he wants to name "Fair Fields." Laura who quickly learns the farm floods every time the river rises dubs it "Mud Bound." Not only does the land flood, but their home is cut off from the nearest town.

Jordan deftly weaves the lives of the McAllan and Jackson families into a riveting story. Hap and Florence Jackson are tenant farmers on Henry's land. Florence is the community's mid-wife and purveyor of folk remedies. Florence also comes to work for Laura in the McAllan home.

What Jordan does to create such a compelling read is the use of multiple voices. Mudbound is told initially by Jamie, Laura, Henry, Hap, and Florence. To Jordan's credit, each voice is unique, and each member of this chorus adds their own perfect thoughts and observations to propel the novel from start to finish.

Jordan really hits her stride when she adds Ronsel Jackson, the eldest son of Hap and Florence. Ronsel has served in the European theater of war as a member of the Black Panthers, famous for their furious assaults against the German Army. This was one of George Patton's favored units.


The 761st Black Panthers whose motto was "Come out Fighting"

Both Jamie and Ronsel carry the emotional scars of their combat. Both are decorated heroes. Jamie won the Distinguished Flying Cross flying B-24 Liberators. Ronsel rose to the rank of Tank Commander and has a chest full of medals. The experiences that haunt them bind them together as friends. But they are also bound by alcoholism to forget the nightmares of war.


B-24 Liberator Heavy Bomber

But we must remember this is Mississippi in the 1940s. Both men must deal with forbidden love. Jamie must handle his feelings for his brother's wife, Laura. Ronsel learns he has fathered a child by a German widow. Both Jamie and Ronsel must deal with the Ku Klux Klan. The final third of Jordan's novel speeds to a tumultuous conclusion. It is impossible to put this novel down until the final page is reached. There is a fine denoument awaiting the reader

Jordan was born in Dallas, Texas, living there and in Muscogee, Oklahoma, until she attended Wellesley College. Her route to writing was a circuitous one. Jordan entered the world of advertising, and created a number of commercials featuring the Everready Bunny. Imagine that.

Fortunately for readers of this novel, Jordan entered the MFA program in creative writing at Columbia University. Prior to its publication Mudbound won the prestigious Bellwether Prize for socially engaged fiction in 2008. The Prize was established by Barbara Kingsolver.

Jordan is currently working on a sequel to Mudbound which picks up the action several years after the action in this work during the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. I can't wait.

...more
4

May 06, 2009

There's a lot of depth here for such a fast, cleanly-written read. Several themes are woven into the lives of the various characters.
First, the senseless intensity of the racism in the deep South of the 1940s. Second, the haunted struggles of men who came home from WWII and couldn't make a place for themselves back among their own people. Third, the frustration and loneliness of an isolated Mississippi farm wife, building into desperation and rage. The combination of these difficulties causes There's a lot of depth here for such a fast, cleanly-written read. Several themes are woven into the lives of the various characters.
First, the senseless intensity of the racism in the deep South of the 1940s. Second, the haunted struggles of men who came home from WWII and couldn't make a place for themselves back among their own people. Third, the frustration and loneliness of an isolated Mississippi farm wife, building into desperation and rage. The combination of these difficulties causes the buildup of tensions that lead to some gruesome and heart-wrenching consequences.

This story is told through the alternating voices of six characters. At first it feels disconnected, like it's just switching around among a bunch of separate stories. Be patient. As you get further into the book, the pieces all come together until the people are all telling their part of the same story.

Change comes slowly, but it does come. I kept thinking of how the Southern crackers in this story would have guffawed loudly if anyone had told them that sixty years later we would elect a bi-racial president. ...more
5

Apr 07, 2019

An unforgettable read. "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." This was a super heart-wrenching novel. The soul of Mississippi in the 1940's, during and after WWII, ripped the heart out of the community of white and An unforgettable read. "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." This was a super heart-wrenching novel. The soul of Mississippi in the 1940's, during and after WWII, ripped the heart out of the community of white and African-American farmers, particularly the McAllans and the sharecropper black Jacksons and their families. Raw descriptions of cruelty and suffering captured my entire being. It brought so much memories back of:
The Tilted World by Tom Franklin,
One Good Mama Bone by Bren McClain,
Long Man by Amy Greene,
The Invention of Wings & The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kid,
The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau, as well as
Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell.

Some quotes I want to remember: “What we can't speak, we say in silence.”
-0-

“There's a whole lot of evil in the world looks pretty on the outside.”
-0-
“[He] had a hole in his soul, the kind the devil loves to find. It's like an open doorway for him, lets him enter in and do his wicked work.”
-0-
“The Bible is full of thou-shalt-nots. Thou shalt not kill, that's one. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, that's two. Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife - three and four. Notice how none of them have any loopholes. There are no dependent clauses you can hang your sins on, like: Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife, unless thou art wandering in the blackest hell, lost to yourself and to every memory of light and goodness, and uncovering her nakedness is the only way back to yourself. No, the Bible's absolute when it comes to most things. It's why I don't believe in God.

Sometimes it's necessary to do wrong. Sometimes it's the only way to make things right. Any God who doesn't understand that can go fuck Himself.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain - that's five.”
-0-

“Henry McAllan was as landsick as any man I ever seen and I seen plenty of em, white and colored both. It's in their eyes, the way they look at the land like a woman they's itching for. White men already got her, they thinking, You mine now, just wait and see what I'm gone do to you. Colored men ain't got her and ain't never gone get her but they dreaming bout her just the same, with every push of that plow and every chop of that hoe. White or colored, none of em got sense enough to see that she the one owns them. She takes their sweat and blood and the sweat and blood of their women and children and when she done took it all she takes their bodies too, churning and churning em up till they one and the same, them and her.” Suffice to say, the novel addressed emotions - all of them - in the reader and hit the bull's eye. I felt utterly depleted, drained of sorrow and heartbreak after closing the book.

After the horror of WWII and the politics of the era were used to create and destroy a friendship, and all the residents on the farm, what possibly was left over to enjoy in life for these gentle souls, killing each other's dreams and ambitions, as well as ripping the heart out of the reader of this novel, I thought. Then the ending came, and I cried. God saves us all, I thought, and then prayed for this world. But it was the human spirit that saves the characters as well as the reader in the end. Beautiful minds, beautiful people.

Excellent novel! A MUST READ!!! ...more
5

Apr 19, 2018

Two men return to a Mississippi Delta farm from WW11, Jamie the younger brother of Henry McAllan who owns the ramshackle place (dubbed by his wife Laura as Mudbound) and Ronsel Jackson a young black man whose family works as their sharecroppers. Since this is the time of Jim Crow it's no surprise that when the two men become friends the nearby town residents are all riled up. All of the members of these two families, notably the hateful old McAdams Patriarch Pappy, and Florence the strong black Two men return to a Mississippi Delta farm from WW11, Jamie the younger brother of Henry McAllan who owns the ramshackle place (dubbed by his wife Laura as Mudbound) and Ronsel Jackson a young black man whose family works as their sharecroppers. Since this is the time of Jim Crow it's no surprise that when the two men become friends the nearby town residents are all riled up. All of the members of these two families, notably the hateful old McAdams Patriarch Pappy, and Florence the strong black Matriarch, will soon be drawn into the life changing drama.
This is a really good though heart wrenching, work of historical fiction which takes on some very tough issues such as those faced by black men who fought in the war and returned home to find themselves still in a racially unaccepting nation. It won the Bellwether prize for fiction in 2006 and is now also a movie which is available on Netflix.
5 stars- read for Moderators choice OTSLT - April ...more
4

Jun 18, 2013

This is a great southern work of fiction. I loved how the book is narrated by a host of narrators. I liked the surprises. I enjoyed being so mad about circumstances but then hopeful of others. Just an overall well-rounded book that I highly recommend.

Note:movie due November 2017
5

Oct 31, 2017

A wonderful story, although very distressing, also, very true, as I grew up in the south in the 50's and 60's and I understand what was happening. This is a story of a friendship that was destroyed by out of control people. But I loved the way the story was written and how much you cared about all the characters. This book is being made into a Netflix movie to be shown in November, that is why I wanted to go ahead and read this book. I've had it on my Amazon Wish List for quite a while so glad I A wonderful story, although very distressing, also, very true, as I grew up in the south in the 50's and 60's and I understand what was happening. This is a story of a friendship that was destroyed by out of control people. But I loved the way the story was written and how much you cared about all the characters. This book is being made into a Netflix movie to be shown in November, that is why I wanted to go ahead and read this book. I've had it on my Amazon Wish List for quite a while so glad I finally read it. ...more
5

Jun 03, 2012

Unputdownable...spellbinding and sometimes, horrifying. Often, I would hesitate to read on because I knew something disturbing and tragic was about to happen. I was reminded of Sidney Poitier's movie from the 1960's, In the Heat of the Night and other similar, racially provocative and consciousness-raising films from that period. A compelling novel, written with eloquence. I look forward to other books by this author.
5

Sep 26, 2013

I wonder how I can possibly say that I loved reading this book . It is a gut wrenching story of two families on a farm in Mississippi in the times of Jim Crow just after WW II . It's about racism , hatred, inequality and unspeakable wrongs . Yet , I was taken by the story from the first page to the last , in spite of the knots in my stomach and lumps in my throat along the way .
Alternating narratives of all of the main characters but one , was an exceptional way to get to know them and their I wonder how I can possibly say that I loved reading this book . It is a gut wrenching story of two families on a farm in Mississippi in the times of Jim Crow just after WW II . It's about racism , hatred, inequality and unspeakable wrongs . Yet , I was taken by the story from the first page to the last , in spite of the knots in my stomach and lumps in my throat along the way .
Alternating narratives of all of the main characters but one , was an exceptional way to get to know them and their inner thoughts . The only main character that doesn't have his say is the despicable Pappy and rightly so . I don't think I would have been able to tolerate reading what he thought . It is bad enough that we see it in his actions.
History tells us that horrible things happened this country and this novel brings it to life . I guess I loved the book because it drew me in and I felt that the author had truths to tell as heart wrenching as they were . ...more
5

Apr 06, 2018

Such a powerful and incredibly moving novel, quite unforgettable. I recommend you read the book then watch the film, both are intense yet wonderful!

This story is of two southern families that live through unbearable circumstance during the Jim Crow era. So many struggles and hardships abound that had my heart aching. And near the ending that brutal scene with Ronsel will haunt me for a while. This book is gut wrenching and has highly sensitive issues that will bring tears to your eyes. Loved Such a powerful and incredibly moving novel, quite unforgettable. I recommend you read the book then watch the film, both are intense yet wonderful!

This story is of two southern families that live through unbearable circumstance during the Jim Crow era. So many struggles and hardships abound that had my heart aching. And near the ending that brutal scene with Ronsel will haunt me for a while. This book is gut wrenching and has highly sensitive issues that will bring tears to your eyes. Loved this and highly recommend. I rated all the stars. ...more

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