Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound was the book club choice for March.  It is a novel
by Hillary Jordan about a young family that moves from town to
a rural cotton farm in Mississippi in the 1940s.

Are you still reading?  Yes, they move to a shack and lean-to right
on the farm—no electricity, running water, no frills and with the
added ‘attraction’ of taking in Pappy to live with them, he being
–the miserable old-son-of-a-gun father of Henry.

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Laura, fearing that she might become
an old maid, marries Henry and they
have two little girls.  Then Henry gets
–or gives into–his lifetime wish of
being a farmer, of owning land.

He briefly tells Laura of the plan and
off they go–in the belief that they will
be renting a house nearby.  That falls
through and they have to live ‘on the
land’ for a while.


Plot thickens when Henry’s younger brother, Jamie, troubled from the war, comes to
live with them, too—

Add to that the surrounding black tenant farmers and the redneck townsfolk itching
for a fight and you have the overall scene as Ms Jordan has painted it.

This was her debut novel, and it won the Bellwether prize for social justice fiction
in 2008.  The book club generally liked the book and there were plenty of topics
within the book to discuss.

When I started reading the book, I noted the similarity of the opening.  In this book,
the family is burying Pappy—in the pouring rain, in the mud.  In As I Lay Dying by
William Faulkner which I recently read, the family is burying, or carrying the coffin
of the old mother—pouring rain, mud and muck, even losing the coffin to the river
at one point.  Likewise, each book tells the story with the device of chapters by each
character.  Can hardly do worse if writing a first book than to imitate a master!

But as I read on, it was pretty easy to guess what would happen—and that there would
be dire events–ugly and cruel.  I’ve read them before and don’t choose to continue
reading about them, sad as they are.  In my opinion I think the book was overly
sensationalized–I didn’t really care about the characters–and I hate it when children
are presented in a story, but then completely ignored as a consequence one must live
with and account for—easily left in the margins when convenient to the writer.

Whew–next month is Walden by Thoreau.  Change of pace!  And am currently
reading Nora Webster by Colm Toibin–will let you know about that one, too.

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