Monday, December 7, 2009

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound tells the story of two families; one white, the other black, both living in Jim Crow South's Marietta, Mississippi in 1946.

Henry McAllan chooses to move his wife, Laura, and their daughters to a cotton farm in Delta Mississippi; closer to his family. He becomes so wrapped up in maintaining his land and crops that Henry is oblivious to the fact that his family is falling apart. His wife, Laura is infuriated with him for forcing her out of urban Memphis to a rural shack in the middle of Mississippi.

Jamie is Henry’s younger brother. He feels that he is constantly living in the shadows of his older brother. He returns from World War II and goes to live with Henry and his family. His sinister and demeaning father awaits his arrival and praises his war victories, but soon turn cold; demeaning and ridiculing Jamie as he’s always done. Jamie secretly turns to liquor as an escape from war trauma and reality.

Hap and Florence Jackson live in a shack on the McAllan’s farm. Both Hap and his wife Florence work for the McAllans. Hap dreams of purchasing his own land and having his eldest son, Ronsel, helping him keep the property up. Hap can not dream of working for whites any longer than he has to. Florence is strong-willed and is the glue holding the Jackson family together.

Ronsel returns home from the war only to find that to the white folks of Marietta, he is still just another Negro. They do not seem to care that he risked his life and nearly died saving his country. Ronsel knows that rural Mississippi is no place for someone like him: educated, opinionated, and filled with ideas. Despite of the fact that his family is in Mississippi, Ronsel’s heart is somewhere else.

Ronsel and Jamie develop a secretive friendship. They are brothers; soldiers of war, who fought for the same cause. In the Jim Crow South, a friendship like this is dangerous and can even be deadly. Can people of different races really ever be friends and if so at what costs? What role will each of these characters plays into the tragic fate of these two families?

Hillary Jordan delivers a novel that brings back all the anguish, discuss, and hatred associated with the Jim Crow South. The development of each individual character is amazing. Jordan allows the reader into the mindset of each of the main characters. Readers are able to get every perspective of the same story, as Jordan creates a dialogue and analysis for each character. This book will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end, with a conclusion that resonates as all too familiar in the 1940’s.

Mudbound contains some explicit and racist language and violent content. This is an excellent book for mature teens interested in World War II, the Jim Crow South, and reading a novel that challenges people to stand strong on their beliefs.


Paige said...

Sounds good, I am wondering what happened with the families. Do you think that there are any valuable lessons to be learned in the book? Also, I agree with you when you say that the book is for mature teens after your description of the book. I enjoyed reading your post!

Lisa Burnham said...

This is definitely on my "must read" list. I love novels that speak of strong family ties and unbreakable bonds even when facing opposition. Even after returning from war, it's hard to believe that Ronsel is still considered just another Negro. But I am curious about how far the secret friendship went.