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Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
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Mudbound

by Hillary Jordan

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Very interesting writing style. You could identify with each main character and their voice. I can't remember a point where something seemed unclear or disjointed. That in itself says a lot... ( )
  tkappleton | Jun 22, 2014 |
A strong hint of impending violence comes early in this spare, confident story of racism and the emotional wounds of war, set in the delta cottonlands of Mississippi. The racial divide is as deep as the mud, the unwaveringly hateful Pappy it's torchbearer. Six narrators, all carrying strife and sorrow, give us a convincing tale of a wretched (recent) past. The promise of a better day comes very late in the book, but it does come.
A fine, moving first novel. ( )
  JamesMScott | Jun 9, 2014 |
Beautifully written story about a family living in Mississippi during the late 40s. I appreciated how the story is told from the viewpoint of all the main characters. ( )
  skm88 | Jun 8, 2014 |
Solid characters and a well written, believable story. The small towns seem quite real and the characters - some of whom are repugnant - are on the sidelines yet central to how things unfold. ( )
  julie.billing | Jun 1, 2014 |
No surprises here. The story proceeds as it must. The characters are those we expect & their fates are all too familiar. The setting is, after all, rural Mississippi in the years immediately following WWII: White landowners, Black tenant farmers, the Ku Klux Klan, a mean & evil father-in-law, a White flyboy and a Black Panther tank division NCO who are conflicted & haunted by their combat experiences; a city woman in love with two brothers, etc. Jordan salvages this mytho-historic tale with fine writing. I applaud her for managing to evoke regional & class speech patterns without wallowing in a wrong-headed attempt to reproduce "dialect." Using a form that has become almost obligatory for many novelists, Jordan switches point of view among several protagonists: chapters alternate among Laura, a Memphis woman who marries late; Henry, Laura's husband, whose grand passion is his land, his hardscrabble Mississippi cotton fields; Jamie, Henry's brother & WWII flying ace, an alcoholic haunted by the war as well as his own childhood demons; Hap, a tenant farmer & preacher who lives with his family on Henry McAllan's land; Florence, Hap's wife, the local midwife & Laura McAllan's housekeeper, a tall, fierce woman who puts her faith in God and African ancestral spirits until they fail her; and finally Ronsel, Hap & Florence's decorated war veteran son who returns from the "freedom" of war and postwar life in Germany to an American South still dominated by the Ku Klux Klan. Lynchings aren't just song lyrics here. Despite the movement from one character to another, the predominant voice and point of view remain those of Laura. She is the focal point around whom the action spins and through whose eyes we interpret events. However, Laura has her blind spots, as do all the characters. An unspoken and unacknowledged truth emerges from this story, one that perhaps even the author herself hadn't intended to reveal: the "bad" White Southerners personified by Pappy McAllan & his cohorts are an obvious evil, one that can be named, shamed & blamed. The real danger, however, lies with the sober, much-respected, "good" family men like Henry McAllan, those who, although they may abhor the excesses of the social system they have inherited, nonetheless accept it as the Way Things Are. They may be "fair" and hardworking men, they may treat sharecroppers, housekeepers & tenant farmers "better than most masters," but they remain too sure of their ownership rights and social status as White Men in the world to bring about the change that is both necessary & necessarily on its way.






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  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
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Epigraph
If I could do it, I'd do no writing at all here. It would be photographs; the rest would be fragments of cloth. bits of cotton, lumps of earth, records of speech, pieces of wood and iron, phials of odors, plates of food and of excrement.... A piece of the body torn out by the roots might be more to the point.----James Agee, "Let us Now Praise Famous Men"
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To Mother, Gay and Nana, for the stories
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Henry and I dug the hole seven feet deep.
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Book description
In this award-winning portrait of two families caught up in the blind hatred of a small Southern town, prejudice takes many forms-some subtle, some ruthless. Mudbound is the saga of the McAllan family, who struggle to survive on a remote ramshackle farm, and the Jacksons, their black sharecroppers. When two sons return from WWII to work the land, the unlikely friendship between these brothers-in-arms-one white, one black-arouses the passions of their neighbors. As the men and women of each family tell their version of events we are drawn into their lives. Striving for love and honor is a brutal time and place, they become players in a tragedy on the grandest scale and find reemption where they least expect it. -back of book
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 156512569X, Hardcover)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:35 -0400)

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In 1946, Laura McAllan tries to adjust after moving with her husband and two children to an isolated cotton farm in the Mississipi Delta.

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