Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

All the big props to Trish who picked the best book club book EVER for September. I've been interested in Hillary Jordan's books ever since the premise of When She Woke got my attention. And I think Mudbound might've been a Tournament of Books participant even before that. Sadly, I waited so freaking long to read anything of Jordan's (story of my life, story of my blog). But, no more crying in my Diet Coke. I'm just glad to have picked it up--late to the party or not! 

This is the story of two families in the post-WWII, Jim Crow South. The McAllens (Henry, Laura, Jamie, Pappy, and kids) are white farm owners and the Jacksons (Hap, Florence, Ronsel, and more kids) are one set of African American tenants who farm their land. They get to keep a larger share of their harvest than sharecroppers, but if they go into debt with the McAllens, they will once again fall into the sharecropping category. 

This is just such a wonderful book on so many levels. Jordan's writing reads lightning-fast without sacrificing quality or narrative intricacy. While multiple narrators usually annoy me, the six (six!) in this one were masterfully done. The story rotates between Henry, the head of the McAllen family; Henry's displaced wife, Laura; Hap Jackson; his wife Florence (local midwife, McAllen's maid); their son Ronsel (returning WWII vet); and Henry McAllen's little brother, Jamie (also a returning WWII vet).

Did ya catch all that?

So basically we have lots of family dynamics at play here. There is tension between Henry and Laura because he plucked her from the city and plunked her down in the middle of BFE (bumfuck Egypt, for the unitiated).  There is tension between Henry and Jamie because Jamie is dealing with post-war trauma feelings and he's a drunk and a flirt. There is tension between Hap Jackson and his son Ronsel because Ronsel is having trouble readajusting to life in the Jim Crow South. There is tension between Laura and Florence because they each have to sit back and watch their families dealing with all this stress. Pappy is a pain in everyone's patoot because he's a hateful old bag. 

The real blow-the-roof-off tension in this book comes from Jamie and Ronsel's friendship. It was not ok for a white man and a black man to be friendly at this time in US history. It wasn't ok for Ronsel to ride in the cab of Jamie's truck, or for Ronsel to be Jamie's designated driver when he was tanked. Ronsel struggles even more because Ronsel was treated as a equal during his time in European countries during the war since the same hang-ups about race did not exist there. 

All of these tensions and social and cultural issues make for one flammable stew, and this book seriously broke my heart. It all comes to a hopeful conclusion, rest assured,  but the journey was just incredible. Highly recommended. 

Pub. Date:March 2009
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781565126770

Source: Bought it!


Watch me gush about some more issues in this book including the way Jordan handles race relations.

 

26 comments:

  1. This sounds right up my alley!!

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    1. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, Kathy!

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  2. You make me want to read this one! I gave away my copy a couple of years ago, unread, because I'd read so many mixed reviews about it and decided I wasn't sure it was for me.

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    1. I've done that I don't know how many times! I hope you can snag a copy of this one from the library and enjoy it. :D

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  3. This sounds fantastic, exactly the kind of book I lean toward. Enjoyed the review!

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    1. I think you would tooootally dig it, Monika!

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  4. Loved this one!! And I didn't manage to read it until earlier this year either... seriously one of our best book club discussions ever!

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    1. Same here! Just so stinkin' good. What a surprise it was!

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  5. Heyyyyy! My book club is reading this also! And we are meeting next week and I have not started yet! I am ashamed of myself for many reasons around this, not least of which is how much you obviously enjoyed this book and I bet I will too. :/

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    1. Sweet!!! It's a super fast read so you'll be able to knock it out. I hope you like it as much as I did!

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  6. I really thought that I had read this, but after reading your review I had it mixed up with another book. Now I definitely want to pick it up :)

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    1. Oh no! I hope you get to it and you lurv it.

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  7. Seriously Andi? You want to make my TBR list the LONGEST IN ALL THE LAND. Seriously though, this sounds like a killer book club pick. I might suggest it to my neighborhood book club!

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    1. YES I DO! lol It's killa. Try it! Love it! Spread the word.

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  8. That does sound like way too many narrators, but I will be interested to see Jordan pull it off. I've heard great things about this author, so I think I need to just read her books already!

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    1. It does, but I was so surprised at how well it worked. Their sections were quite short, and it really brought the story together. Just can't say enough good things about this book.

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  9. Sounds good. You've read other work by this author as well? I often wonder how an author's books compare across the board.

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    1. I haven't yet, but I have her other book, When She Woke, on my TBR waiting for me. :)

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  10. Loved this book. Awesome review, as always!

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  11. I read this book absolutely years ago after my Mum pressed it into my hands with many pleas to read it immediately. I was not sorry. I adored it and eagerly awaited another novel from her. I've been dying to read When She Woke since it's release but (typically) I have yet to get to it. This has reminded me to get back to it so thank you :)

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  12. Yay! So glad you liked this one! Awesome book :)

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  13. I have this on my shelf and have clearly put it off too long!

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  14. This sounds amazing! thanks for the recommendation! it's going on my list.

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  15. I loved and also had a tough time with When She Woke. I looooooved it until it got a little too far fetched towards the end. So I'm excited to hear that Mudbound is so good! She seems like a cool author for sure!

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  16. This sounds really interesting and touching! It sounds gritty and real, and Jordan sounds like an amazing writer!

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  17. This book was FANTASTIC!!! I loved it.

    Reviewed on my blog, but this post tells you all you need to know..

    THANKS for sharing and for the reminder.

    Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved November Edition. I am in the list as #28. My book entry is below.

    Elizabeth
    Silver's Reviews
    My Book Entry

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