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Mudbound Paperback – March 17, 2009
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"A compelling family tragedy, a confluence of romantic attraction and racial hatred that eventually falls like an avalanche . . . An engaging story."
"The forces of change and resistance collide with terrible consequences."
—The New York Times
"Stunning. . . . You are truly taken there by Jordan's powerful, evocative writing and complex characters."
"By the end of the very short first chapter, I was completely hooked . . . This inside understanding of conflicting emotions and motivations leads to a complicated stew in which the distinction between good and evil isn't always clear. This is a book in which love and rage cohabit. This is a book that made me cry."
"Mudbound dramatizes the human cost of unthinking hatred . . . That Hillary Jordan makes a hopeful ending seem possible, after the violence and injustice that precedes it, is a tribute to the novel's voices and the contribution each makes to the story . . . [They] live in the novel as individuals, black and white, which gives Mudbound its impact."
"Mudbound is as much a tale of racism as it is the transcending powers of love and friendship."
"An absorbing debut novel . . . Is it too early to say, after just one book, that here's a voice that will echo for years to come?"
—San Antonio Express News
"Mudbound argues for humanity and equality, while highlighting the effects of war. For a historical novel, it has a most contemporary theme . . . [The] mixture of the predictable and the unpredictable will keep readers turning the pages. . . . It feels like a classic tragedy, whirling toward a climax . . . [An] ambitious first novel."
—Dallas Morning News
"Mudbound, which is the 2006 winner of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Award, founded to recognize literature of social responsibility, does an excellent job of capturing the impacts of racism both casual and deliberate."
"A superbly rendered depiction of the fury and terror wrought by racism."
"[A] sophisticated, complex first novel."
—Booklist, starred review
"[A] poignant and moving debut novel. . . . Jordan faultlessly portrays the values of the 1940s as she builds to a stunning conclusion. Highly recommended."
—Library Journal, starred review
“A confidently executed novel.”
"This is storytelling at the height of its powers: the ache of wrongs not yet made right, the fierce attendance of history made as real as rain, as true as this minute. Hillary Jordan writes with the force of a Delta storm. Her characters walked straight out of 1940's Mississippi and into the part of my brain where sympathy and anger and love reside, leaving my heart racing. They are with me still."
“A real page turner—a tangle of history, tragedy and romance powered by guilt, moral indignation and a near chorus of unstoppable voices. Any reader will appreciate the overlap of forbidden loves and deadly secrets.”
From the Inside Flap
A gripping and exquisitely rendered story of forbidden love, betrayal, and murder, set against the brutality of the Jim Crow South.
When Henry McAllan moves his city-bred wife, Laura, to a cotton farm in the Mississippi Delta in 1946, she finds herself in a place both foreign and frightening. Laura does not share Henry's love of rural life, and she struggles to raise their two young children in an isolated shotgun shack with no indoor plumbing or electricity, all the while under the eye of her hateful, racist father-in-law. When it rains, the waters rise up and swallow the bridge to town, stranding the family in a sea of mud.
As the McAllans are being tested in every way, two celebrated soldiers of World War II return home to help work the farm. Jamie McAllan is everything his older brother Henry is not: charming, handsome, and sensitive to Laura's plight, but also haunted by his memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black sharecroppers who live on the McAllan farm, comes home from fighting the Nazis with the shine of a war hero, only to face far more personaland dangerousbattles against the ingrained bigotry of his own countrymen. It is the unlikely friendship of these two brothers-in-arms, and the passions they arouse in others, that drive this powerful debut novel. Mudbound reveals how everyone becomes a player in a tragedy on the grandest scale, even as they strive for love and honor.
Jordan's indelible portrayal of two families caught up in the blind hatred of a small Southern town earned the prestigious Bellwether Prize for Fiction, awarded biennially to a first literary novel that addresses issues of social injustice.
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As the story progresses, we hear shifting narratives. From Jamie, the story is told from his brother’s wife, Laura, Henry and then from the Jacksons, black sharecroppers who work Henry’s land. An unlikely friendship develops between Ronsel Jackson and Jamie McAllan and also between Florence Jackson and Laura McAllan. Their attempts to find acceptance and understanding in each other turn into tragedy as the novel unfolds.
This was quite the page-turner from start to finish. It’s themes of racism and brutality, friendship and family, are just as important in the historical context as they are today. Given the simplicity of the prose, I would say it could pass as a young adult novel – but strictly for high school students given the content.
There were several times when reading this novel was hard to do. As an African American woman and mother of a young adult male, reading about the harrowing times of my people and our sons was a strain. The climatic scene with Ronsel will stay with me for awhile.
I didn't favor one character over another. Each was written true to the time and their respective station in life with no real surprises to their character or actions....just like the story itself.
Some people don't like the end, but I think it made the book a more successful novel. This is an incredibly painful period of American history, and whether white Americans deserve it or not, the glimmer of hope rising from the Mississippi mud was appreciated.
You might think that this tale of misery would falter in the farm's mud, but you'd be wrong. The two soldiers returning from World War II add tension and the ultimate storyline that reveals why her father-in-law is being buried. Along the way, Jordan delves into the world of black southern farmers who dream of owning their own land, where one false step can lead to ruin, and the assumptions whites made about blacks before the civil rights movement came along.
Jordan makes this world come to life, with beautiful descriptions and the inner dialog of the characters.