Thursday, June 10, 2010

74 - Mudbound; Hillary Jordan


















In Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan, the novel begins with two brothers, Henry and Jamie,  digging a grave for their father, who had just died.  Pappy, as he was referred to was a horrible man. He was mean, angry and, abusive, even to his family. He was also stingy and probably worst of all: a racist.  As the brothers dig his grave, they dig up a "rusted iron shackle" encircling a bone. Sweet revenge, as most likely Pappys final resting place, will be a place he will share with a former slave. For Mudbound is set in the South, the Mississippi Delta, just after World War II.

Basically Mudbound is the story of (2) families, one black and one white. Six characters take turns narrating the story.  Laura (Chappell) McAllan's life literally becomes "mudbound" when she marries Henry, and he decides to buy a cotton farm , without consulting her. Laura is a college graduate and city girl. She has no idea what farm life is like, and when she learns that there is no electricity or even running water at the farm, she is miserable to put it mildly.

There is one part, I loved when Laura spoke up to her husband Henry when she insisted that her piano be moved to the farm. Henry's response according to Laura was : "he looked at me as if I sprouted antlers. I stared back and resisted the urge to drop my gaze".  "You're overtired", he said . "No, I'm fine".....(and her heart thumped as she waited him out).

Florence Jackson is a midwife. A black woman whose husband, Hap, is a tenant farmer of the Allans. Laura befriends Florence. The Jackson's also have a son, Ronsel, who joined the "white mans Army", where segregation was the norm. He returns home from the war, about the same time as Henry's younger brother Jamie did. Sadly, Ronsel learns quickly that nothing has changed in the South during the time he was gone: blacks still ride at the back of the bus, picking white folks cotton, using the back doors..."we were still just niggers, and the black soldiers that died in the war were just dead niggers".

More tension in the novel is created because Jamie and Ronsel are close. Jamie has his own issues/demons, however, at times he is the only bright spot to Laura's days.

MY THOUGHTS  - I wanted to love this book, and don't get me wrong it is a very good debut novel, but it was not without its flaws.  The author covers some major issues: racism, adultery, incest, and the scars of war.  The characters were well written, but Mudbound was one of those stories that when all was said and done, there was no redemption and no promise of a brighter tomorrow,   I also thought it was interesting that the nastiest person of all in this novel, Pappy, never had a voice. He was being buried at the beginning of the novel, but through bits and pieces here and there, the reader got a very clear picture of just what type of person he was.  I will be anxious to read another book by  this author. I liked her style, and I only hope that future novels might end on a more hopeful note.
RECOMMENDED - 4/5 Stars (my personal collection)

16 comments:

  1. Well, 4 stars is pretty darn close to loving a book. I think I'd enjoy this book for the Southern setting.

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  2. I really want to read this one and have it sitting in my TBR collection. I've heard mixed reviews about it, mostly about the ending. I am glad you liked it enough to recommend it, Diane! It sounds like it covers a lot of issues, even if it doesn't have much in the way of resolution.

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  3. My book group and I really enjoyed this book. I really got a sense of what life was like for all of the characters, some of whom I hated!

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  4. Oh, I so wanted to read this, but I wasn't aware it ended in such a depressing way! One has so much trouble reading books like this anyway that just sort of take your breath away with cruelty, that a little redemption at the end is nice, even if it didn't always happen in real life!

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  5. I've had this book on my shelf for a while and I keep seeing mixed reviews. You gave it a pretty high rating though so that gives me high hopes!

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  6. I loved this book, but can see your point about it not having a positive ending. I thought it gave the book a more realistic, memorable finish, but I realise it can be depressing. I'm hoping that she'll write another book soon, as I do love her writing.

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  7. Pappy was a horrible character in the book. I hated him from the beginning. I really loved this book and look forward to reading her next one.

    I am presently crying my eyes out as I read about Dewey the library cat and his final days. Why do these animal books always have to end so sadly.

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  8. You know, when this book came out I was all over it, but for some reason, I had a bit of a disconnect and didn't buy it. I can't tell you exactly what it was, I just didn't think I would enjoy it. It sounds like you had a few problems with it as well. I am still really on the fence about this book, but I have to say that your review has been the most insightful and comprehensive that I have seen, and it makes me want to reconsider. Thanks for the great review!

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  9. This is the first review I've read for this book. It sounds like you thought it was good (and you gave it four stars) but not spectacular. That's good enough for me to want to read it!

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  10. I think I would have to be in the right mood to read this book. It sounds like a heavy read.

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  11. I'd like to read this one in spite of the shortcomings you mention.

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  12. I loved this book, despite it being a bit of a downer. I thought the author did a fabulous job with all of the different voices. And the setting.

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  13. When a book is merely good and that's what I was expecting, I'm okay with that. But when a book is so close to great, it can be frustrating.

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  14. I've heard a lot of good things about this book ... I'm sure I'll check it out at some point.

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  15. Wonderful review Diane and 4 stars to me is a rating that says you enjoyed the book tremendously. I'm sorry to see though that you felt some threads were glossed over and not developed. It's as of the author cheated you of a full reading experience.

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  16. This one sounds promising. I just read a review somewhere else and they hated it...so I guess I'm going to have to read it some day!

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