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)