In Hillary Jordan's first novel, the forces of change and resistance collide with terrible consequences. Set in Mississippi just after World War II, the story is told by a chorus of narrators who alternate throughout the book.... It is a novel of place as much as people.
Amy Virshup - New York Times
Once Jordan gets these characters in place, she builds a compelling family tragedy, a confluence of romantic attraction and racial hatred that eventually falls like an avalanche. Indeed, the last third of the book is downright breathless.
Ron Charles - Washington Post
Jordan's tautly structured debut.... Confronts disturbing truths about America's past with a directness and a freshness of approach that recalls Alice Walker's The Color Purple.
Christina Koning - London Times
In a layered tragedy that is at once complicated and inevitable, Mudbound dramatizes the human cost of unthinking hatred... The challenge Jordan faces is to make an all-too-familiar story compelling. She meets it by making her characters flesh and blood.... That [she] makes a hopeful ending seem possible, after the violence and injustice that precede it, is a tribute to the novel's voices and the contribution each makes to the story... The characters live in the novel as individuals, black and white, which gives Mudbound its impact.
Lynna Williams - Atlanta Journal-Constitution
This book packs an emotional wallop that will engage adult and adolescent readers... The six narrators here have enough time and space to develop a complicated set of relationships. The fault lines among them converge into a crackling gunpoint confrontation, a stunning scene that ranks as my personal favorite of this year.
Rollie Welch - Cleveland Plain Dealer
Is it too early to say, after just one book, that here's a voice that will echo for years to come? With authentic, earthy prose...Jordan picks at the scabs of racial inequality that will perhaps never fully heal and brings just enough heartbreak to this inimate, universal tale, just enough suspense, to leave us contemplating how the lives and motives of these vivid characters might have been different.
Steven Benett - San Antonia Express
Jordan's beautiful debut (winner of the 2006 Bellwether Prize for literature of social responsibility) carries echoes of As I Lay Dying, complete with shifts in narrative voice, a body needing burial, flood and more. In 1946, Laura McAllan, a college-educated Memphis schoolteacher, becomes a reluctant farmer's wife when her husband, Henry, buys a farm on the Mississippi Delta, a farm she aptly nicknames Mudbound. Laura has difficulty adjusting to life without electricity, indoor plumbing, readily accessible medical care for her two children and, worst of all, life with her live-in misogynous, racist, father-in-law. Her days become easier after Florence, the wife of Hap Jackson, one of their black tenants, becomes more important to Laura as companion than as hired help. Catastrophe is inevitable when two young WWII veterans, Henry's brother, Jamie, and the Jacksons' son, Ronsel, arrive, both battling nightmares from horrors they've seen, and both unable to bow to Mississippi rules after eye-opening years in Europe. Jordan convincingly inhabits each of her narrators, though some descriptive passages can be overly florid, and the denouement is a bit maudlin. But these are minor blemishes on a superbly rendered depiction of the fury and terror wrought by racism.
Jordan's poignant and moving debut novel, winner of the 2006 Bellwether Prize, takes on social injustice in the postwar Mississippi Delta. Here, two families, the landowning McAllans and their black sharecroppers, the Jacksons, struggle with the mores of the Jim Crow South. Six distinctive voices narrate the complex family stories that include the faltering marriage of Laura and Henry McAllan, the mean-spirited family patriarch and his white-robed followers, and returning war heroes Jamie McAllan and Ronsel Jackson. In every respect, the powerful pull of the land dominates their lives. Henry leaves a secure job with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to buy their farm, never noticing that the refined and genteel Laura dreams of escaping the pervasive mud and dreary conditions of farm life. Ronsel, encouraged by his war-hero status as a tank commander, wants to break away from the past and head North to a better future, while his parents, knowing no other life but farming, struggle to buy their own land. Jordan faultlessly portrays the values of the 1940s as she builds to a stunning conclusion. Highly recommended for all public libraries.
Donna Bettencourt - Library Journal
Family bonds are twisted and broken in Jordan's meditation on the fallen South. Debut novelist Jordan won the 2006 Bellwether Prize for this disquieting reflection on rural America, told from multiple perspectives. After steadfastly guarding her virginity for three decades, cosmopolitan Memphis schoolmarm Laura Chappell agrees to marry a rigid suitor named Henry McAllan, and in 1940 they have their first child. At the end of World War II, Henry drags his bride, their now expanded brood and his sadistic Pappy off to a vile, primitive farm in the backwaters of Mississippi that she names "Mudbound." Promised an antebellum plantation, Laura finds that Henry has been fleeced and her family is soon living in a bleak, weather-beaten farmhouse lacking running water and electricity. Resigned to an uncomfortable truce, the McAllans stubbornly and meagerly carve out a living on the unforgiving Delta. Their unsteady marriage becomes more complicated with the arrival of Henry's enigmatic brother Jamie, plagued by his father's wrath, a drinking problem and the guilt of razing Europe as a bomber pilot. Adding his voice to the narrative is Ronsel Jackson, the son of one of the farm's tenants, whose heroism as a tank soldier stands for naught against the racism of the hard-drinking, deeply bigoted community. Punctuated by an illicit affair, a gruesome hate crime and finally a quiet, just murder in the night, the book imparts misery upon the wicked—but the innocent suffer as well. "Sometimes it's necessary to do wrong," claims Jamie McAllan in the book's equivocal denouement. "Sometimes it's the only way to make things right."The perils of country living are brought to light in a confidently executed novel.
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