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Mudbound Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 4, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 756 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (March 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156512569X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565125698
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (756 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on March 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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