Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
Finished: Oct. 5, 2008
First Published: March, 2008
Genre: southern fiction, historical fiction
Award: Bellwether Prize
Reason for Reading: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada. Qualifies for the Book Awards Challenge.
Henry and I dug the hole seven feet deep.
Comments: A story of 1940s Mississippi. A tale of two families; one black, the other white. Henry McAllen moves from the city with his wife, two young daughters and his cantankerous, racist father to land he has just bought. On that land are four sharecroppers but the story focuses on one family, that of Hap Jackson his wife and three young children. Henry's younger brother is off fighting in WWII as is Hap's oldest son who are both around the same age. When the war ends both of these young men eventually return war weary and world-wise to the South of the Forties, a viciously, racist time and place.
Each chapter is narrated by one of the six main characters and the whole story unfolds slowly through the eyes of each one. The contrasting eyes of Hap, an enterprising black man trying to get his family their own land, and Henry, who considers himself forward thinking where 'coloreds' are concerned yet who knows the limits. The contrasting eyes of Florence, black sharecropper wife who is midwife to the local black folks and Laura, a city bred white woman who becomes beaten down by the farm land. And finally through the contrasting eyes of Jamie, returning white air force hero who is so mentally disturbed by the war he has become an alcoholic and cares not what anyone thinks of him outside the family, and Ronsell the returning hero from the first fighting black platoon, directly under Patton's orders, and a deeply loving and caring man but in his returning home of Mississippi he is just a n*gger.
I really hate to gush in my reviews but all I want to say about this book is "Wow! Wow! Wow!". Beautiful, brilliant, sad, and disheartening yet ending on a bittersweet slight glimpse of hope. I felt for each and every one of the six main characters. It takes a lot of skill to write a book through the eyes of 6 different people but Jordan pulls it off with flowing grace. Beautiful and heartrending. Read this book!