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Mudbound [Kindle Edition]

Hillary Jordan
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (656 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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 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."

Editorial Reviews Review

Jordan won the 2006 Bellwether Prize for Mudbound, her first novel. The prize was founded by Barbara Kingsolver to reward books of conscience, social responsibility, and literary merit. In addition to meeting all of the above qualifications, Jordan has written a story filled with characters as real and compelling as anyone we know.

It is 1946 in the Mississippi Delta, where Memphis-bred Laura McAllan is struggling to adjust to farm life, rear her daughters with a modicum of manners and gentility, and be the wife her land-loving husband, Henry, wants her to be. It is an uphill battle every day. Things started badly when Henry's trusting nature resulted in the family being done out of a nice house in town, thus relegating them to a shack on their property. In addition, Henry's father, Pappy, a sour, mean-spirited devil of a man, moves in with them.

The real heart of the story, however, is the friendship between Jamie, Henry's too-charming brother, and Ronsel Jackson, son of sharecroppers who live on the McAllan farm. They have both returned from the war changed men: Jamie has developed a deep love for alcohol and has recurring nightmares; Ronsel, after fighting valiantly for his country and being seen as a man by the world outside the South, is now back to being just another black "boy."

Told in alternating chapters by Laura, Henry, Jamie, Ronsel, and his parents, Florence and Hap, the story unfolds with a chilling inevitability. Jordan's writing and perfect control of the material lift it from being another "ain't-it-awful" tale to a heart-rending story of deep, mindless prejudice and cruelty. This eminently readable and enjoyable story is a worthy recipient of Kingsolver's prize and others as well. --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

Jordan's beautiful debut (winner of the 2006 Bellwether Prize for literature of social responsibility) carries echoes of As I Lay Dying, complete with shifts in narrative voice, a body needing burial, flood and more. In 1946, Laura McAllan, a college-educated Memphis schoolteacher, becomes a reluctant farmer's wife when her husband, Henry, buys a farm on the Mississippi Delta, a farm she aptly nicknames Mudbound. Laura has difficulty adjusting to life without electricity, indoor plumbing, readily accessible medical care for her two children and, worst of all, life with her live-in misogynous, racist, father-in-law. Her days become easier after Florence, the wife of Hap Jackson, one of their black tenants, becomes more important to Laura as companion than as hired help. Catastrophe is inevitable when two young WWII veterans, Henry's brother, Jamie, and the Jacksons' son, Ronsel, arrive, both battling nightmares from horrors they've seen, and both unable to bow to Mississippi rules after eye-opening years in Europe. Jordan convincingly inhabits each of her narrators, though some descriptive passages can be overly florid, and the denouement is a bit maudlin. But these are minor blemishes on a superbly rendered depiction of the fury and terror wrought by racism. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1522 KB
  • Print Length: 353 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 156512569X
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (March 4, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003I1WY20
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,166 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
228 of 236 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars dark but memorable tale shows great potential March 16, 2008
Hillary Jordan appears to be the real deal, judging from the amazing skill she displays in constructing this novel. She is able to tell a dark and troubling tale in the voices of several of the characters and make it all hang together. Actually, it more than just hangs together, it fits together almost seamlessly. As other reviewers have noted, this story focuses on the Mississippi Delta in the year 1946/47, when returning veterans of WWII knew the world was changing, but their home community did not. The realities of the racism of the time and place are explored thoroughly, but not in a melodramatic or pompous way. This novel received the Bellwether prize, which is the largest USA prize given to unpublished manuscripts and the only one that specifically promotes literature of social change. Barbara Kingsolver reviewed it in the strongest positive terms- no surprise, because it is as good as her work. Like others, I am highly interested in the next thing that Hillary Jordan will write.
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93 of 100 people found the following review helpful
Hillary Jordan's first novel is a luminous, lovely and at times achingly painful depiction of America at a time of its greatest glory and shame. Set at the end of World War II, it follows the vastly different homecomings of two returning war heroes--one black, one white--to the Jim Crow south. Jordan uses deftly lyrical writing (judiciously salted with both humor and pathos) and a breathlessly brave approach to tell her story: a diverse chorus of different characters (black and white, male and female) weave their voices together in observations of race and rural farmlife in the 40's. The result is a delicately-choreographed, operatic tragedy that unrolls with graceful inevitability, culminating in a climactic scene that will reverberate for this reader (and writer) for years to come.

Here is a true new talent; a writer with the stylistic grace and social conscience of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor and the dramatic flair of Pat Conroy and Jodi Picoult. Mudbound will leave you stunned, impressed, painfully touched---and (like me!) eagerly anticipating its author's next book.
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140 of 155 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mississippi Delta Farm Life In The 1940's June 27, 2008
In her novel MUDBOUND Hillary Jordan does a good job bringing the language and attitudes of both black and white rural Mississippians living in the years surrounding World War II to life. The story is told by six "voices". Laura's voice is perhaps the one we hear from most frequently. She is a "city" (Memphis) born woman who marries when in her early 30's and had given up on marriage and motherhood. Her husband is Henry, a basically good but also inconsiderate man and it is his dreams of farm life that bring his wife and daughters to live on a remote cotton farm with him and his hateful father. Another voice belongs to Jamie, Henry's much younger charming brother, a returning war hero with a serious drinking problem and some other unresolved issues. Hap is a middle aged black tenant farmer and an almost saintly part time preacher and his voice helps us understand the hopes, desires and choices of many black Southern Americans of that time. His wife Florence is a sharply observant voice who sees much as "granny midwife" to the poorer people in the area and in her other role as housekeeper for Laura and her family. Florence and Hap's son Ronsel is the last voice. Ronsel returns from service in World War II much changed after seeing the greater acceptance of blacks in Europe and other parts of the United States and finds difficulty in accepting the subservient plight of black folks in the Jim Crow Delta.

The beginning and ending of the novel are the weakest parts. The beginning chapter in which we meet Jamie and Henry digging a grave should be compelling but somehow isn't and I had to force myself to continue reading and was fortunately soon rewarded as Laura begins to tell her story.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful story of the south April 19, 2008
Reading this book, I felt like I truly understood what it was to live in a mudbound Mississippi farm post-WW II; the characters were so real it was like they were sitting on the couch beside me, telling me their stories. The first few pages of this book were so beautifully written that I read the entire first chapter out loud to my husband; it was just perfect prose. The narrative is powerful as well: I read the book in just a few days, and was late to church trying to get it finished. Ultimately, it was just short of five stars because the theme of the story -- the desperate unfairness of racism in the South -- has been done before, and the writer didn't seem to have a new perspective on it. Bits of it were somewhat cliched; the racist characters were evil, the African Americans noble victims; racism is bad and destructive and corrupts everyone. All true; but I wish she had pushed herself a bit more, past the cliches of all that has been written before. But there is no question: the writing, the people and the story carry you through the book like a tide. Not quite a classic, but a wonderful debut, and well worth your time.
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61 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Books I've Read in a Long Time March 4, 2008
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan is without question one of the best books I have read in some time. The story of two families, one white, one black, in the Mississippi Delta immediately after the end of World War 2, tells a story of racism like nothing I have read before. The story is told by various characters in the book giving a clear picture of the time, the people and the unforgiving conditions of farming in the Mississippi Delta. I was raised and have lived most of my life in small towns in the North and have never encountered any of the racism that I know exists, and existed even more prominently during the time covered in this book. It is important, in my opinion, to make this abominable racism public and the author does that, not sugar coating anything in the exchanges between characters.
I found myself so engrossed in this book that it was almost like I wasn't reading, more like watching a play or a movie. The language flowed so beautifully. The characters were true to what they were portrayed as. I look forward to future books from Hillary Jordan.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Dreary
A dreary story in a dreary place filled with hard people. Attempts at a good life compromised at every turn.
Published 3 days ago by Roger L. Boese
3.0 out of 5 stars Reading this felt like being in quicksand
Depressingly engaging and predictable. Just not a fun read. Recommend if you would like to get a feel for race relations in the post-war era in the deep south. Just ok .
Published 4 days ago by Georgia
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
It was depressing.
Published 4 days ago by mary ann wellener
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Excellent story....good read.
Published 12 days ago by Mimi7
5.0 out of 5 stars Bound by More Than Mud
This book is tough to read in places but it is so worthwhile. It's a vivid, personal description of 2 families in the American South during the 40's; one black and one white. Read more
Published 27 days ago by SLO Shirl
5.0 out of 5 stars This book kept my interest from the first word to ...
This book kept my interest from the first word to the last ! Hillary Jordan is a talented writer.
Published 1 month ago by Tamara Morris
1.0 out of 5 stars Didn't like it! I had to read it for my ...
Didn't like it! I had to read it for my book club otherwise I wouldn't have read it.
Published 1 month ago by grandma K
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful storytelling
Mudbound is an excellent reminder of how ugly racism is, but the "message" is skillfully woven into a compelling story. Wonderful writing. Read more
Published 1 month ago by AMB
5.0 out of 5 stars loved how the chapters were narrated by different characters in ...
I couldn't put this book down, loved how the chapters were narrated by different characters in the book.
Published 1 month ago by Cheryl Felber
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo! Outstanding!
A very special Real story of our History of Racism in the U.S.!
Published 2 months ago by DOROTHY C. MCMAHON
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More About the Author

Hillary Jordan grew up in Texas and Oklahoma. She received her BA in English and Political Science from Wellesley College and spent fifteen years working as an advertising copywriter before starting to write fiction. She got her MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.

Her first novel, MUDBOUND, was published by Algonquin Books in March 2008 and became an international bestseller. It won the 2006 Bellwether Prize for Fiction, founded by Barbara Kingsolver and awarded biennially to an unpublished debut novel that addresses issues of social justice, as well as a 2009 Alex Award from the American Library Association. It was the 2008 NAIBA (New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Assoc.) Fiction Book of the Year and was longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize. PASTE Magazine named it one of the Top Ten Debut Novels of the Decade. MUDBOUND has been translated into French, Italian, Serbian, Swedish and Norwegian.

Hillary's second novel, WHEN SHE WOKE, was published by Algonquin Books in October 2011. It was a #1 Indie Next pick, one of BookPages Best Books of 2011 and a BookList Editor's Choice for Best Fiction of 2011. It has been translated into French, Spanish and Turkish. German, Chinese and Brazilian editions are forthcoming.

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