Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
Several years ago – yikes! It was actually twenty years ago! – I discovered Kaye Gibbons and Algonquin Press of Chapel Hill. I loved the small format books they had then, and I loved the consistent high quality of the writing. Mudbound does not disappoint me in the least. This novel is one terrific story. Two decorated war heroes – one white, the other black – return from World War II to a small town in the Mississippi Delta. The brother of the white soldier owns a farm, and one family of tenants includes the parents of the black soldier. Pappy, the father of the white soldier is involved in the local Ku Klux Klan. The soldiers form a bond based on the horrors they witnessed in Europe, and, as you can well imagine, this does not sit well with “Pappy,” a miserable, nasty, old man.I was raised in the inner city of Philadelphia, and it wasn’t until I spent three years in Mississippi that I saw racism for the first time. I was bewildered, helpless, and disgusted. Jordan has completely captured those feelings in this story told by the six principal characters. Not only that, she has captured the voice of each person. Each chapter has a distinctive feel. I could tell which character was speaking without looking at the title. Sometimes, this device of intertwining characters telling a story can be poorly connected, but not here. Jordan has masterfully woven a tapestry of love, hate, class, hard work, loyalty, racism, and betrayal. I wholeheartedly recommend this novel. Five stars.