Review: Mudbound

Jackie:

WOW! This was one of those books that you just cannot put down right from the start! A great pick for the Wink 3 Book Club– I hope everyone likes it as much as I did! Mudbound takes place in 40s era Mississippi following WWII. It is the story of 2 families working against the mud, floods and signs of the times. The narration alternates between 6 characters and what each perspective brings to the story is what makes this book a must read! Hillary Jordan did a FANTASTIC job making each character real, believable and unique. There was not one I wanted to get to as I was reading another, everything was perfectly placed.

Henry McAllen has just purchased a cotton plantation. It is a bit on the dilapidated side but owning land is all he has ever wanted. He drags his young family with him, the plan being to set them up in town until he can get the place fixed up, but due to a series of unfortunate events they end up having to live in the old farmhouse. Laura was on the brink of old maid hood when she married Henry and she knows that she is lucky to have him. As much as she hates the place she must do as her husband says (like any good woman of the 1940s would) and leave her city life to make due at the farm. It has been christened Mudbound because of its constant state of muck and life is difficult there. To make matters worse they have also “inherited” Henry’s Pappy who just an all around nasty character– reminiscent of one Ras Belanger from The Homecoming of Samuel Lake (winner of the Literary Hoarder Most Hated Villain Award!!).

The Jacksons are a black family that sharecrops with Henry on Mudbound but because it is 1940’s Mississippi they are treated no better than dogs, really. They must cow-tow to the white people, obey their every command, sit in the back of the truck, get served last, use separate toilets fountains and entrances. Henry is pretty darned racist by today’s standards but he is more of a fair landlord than they are used to. Hap is the patriarch, a hard worker and a man of God. He does not believe in credit and hopes to make enough money to eventually own his own land. His wife, Florence is 10 000 times stronger than anyone in this book and is a fantastic character! Her “tell it like it is” attitude and the way she can read a person or a situation is GREAT!! you will want to cheer for her and protect her from her inevitable heart-break.

I loved all my children, but I loved Ronsel the most. If that was a sin I reckon God would forgive me for it, seeing as how He the one stacked the cards in the first place. ~Florence

He set about making me love him from the first day he arrived. Complementing me on my cooking and doing little things for me around the house. Things that said “I see you. I think about what might please you.” I was starved for that kind of attention, and I soaked it up like a biscuit soaks up gravy. ~ Laura

Trouble starts when 2 heros return to Mudbound from fighting in the war. Jamie is Henry’s brother, an Air Force pilot who has seen a lot of combat. He is dashing, handsome and everything that his brother is not. He also not coping well with whatever happened to him during the war and he has become a tad wild– drinking and whoring without remorse. Ronsel is Hap and Florence’s son, a tank commander who worked for General Patton himself in one of the first all black tank crews. He had gotten used to be treated with respect in Europe and returning home to the hate-filled Mississippi Delta has not been easy for him. Jamie and Ronsel strike up an unlikely friendship and the tension begins. What happens will NOT allow you to put down this book until you are finished!!! 5 star read for me FOR SURE!

Penny:

Just as Creative Loafing Atlanta says in the trailer: “sucks readers in like quicksand.”

And all I have to say to that is, UH HUH and AMEN! Like Jackie says above, I could not put this book down! Here is another book that I just burned through. I think I read it in 2 days! I was on the edge of my seat and glued to the pages the entire time! The characters, the events, the sorrow, the hatred, Mudbound has it all and will definitely be a book that stays with me a long, long time. You can watch the trailer for Mudbound here: http://www.hillaryjordan.com/mudbound_trailer.php

What struck me, and will stay with me for so very long is how remarkably (astonishingly) well Jordan has captured hatred for your fellow man. From Nazi Germany and its hatred of the Jews, to the Southern US and its blistering hatred of the black man.

Through (my favourite) character Ronsel’s eyes you catch a glimpse of the Nazi German treatment of the Jews in the concentration camps through his breathtaking account of what he finds when coming upon a concentration camp. Jordan’s description of the overpowering stench and the sight of people with nothing more than sticks for limbs and hollowed out eyes, her description of bodies falling in great waves as the Nazi guards guns them down, Ronsel’s sight of the piles of bodies in the sheds where they were being burned, puts you right there. You saw it, you smelled it, you felt it. You can see and feel Ronsel’s disgust as he shoots down, without any second thought, these evil guards.

Ronsel becomes accustomed to being treated with a fair amount of respect in Europe. The colour of his skin has no real or great impact on his treatment by the Europeans. For that, he is at first bewildered and then, he wishes never to return home to the Mississipi Delta. And it is upon his return where again, I was struck by this seering hatred in the southern US for the black man. Again, Jordan brilliantly characterizes the hatred and struggle. It’s downright shocking really when you’re reading.

Yes, I agree with Jackie here, as every single character in this book is splendidly and perfectly portrayed. They moved this story along at a fast, intense-filled pace. You will bleed for these people (well, for some of them, the others you wish to rot in the blazing depths of hell.)

It’s going to be a few days before I can really pick up another book and settle in to it. I’m still too worked up by Mudbound!!

Hillary Jordan has recently released her second novel, When She Woke. I will absolutely be reading this one in the very, very near future!!

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