Friday, May 29, 2009

Book Review: Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

I am on a book roll! On Wednesday night my library book club, Books on Main, met to discuss Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. Mudbound is one of the books being considered by RARI for 2010. When it comes time to discuss and vote for books, I am going to give this one high marks. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. That is 3 books in a row that I have really, really, really liked. That is unprecedented! Unheard of! Amazing! A book roll! Now that I've said all that I've probably jinxed myself and won't read another great book for the next 6 months. (Gosh, I hope not.)

Mudbound takes place in rural Mississippi in 1946. It tells the story of two families, one white and one black, who are trying to eek out an existence on a hardscrabble farm. The story centers around two young men, Ronsel and Jamie, two soldiers returning to the farm from the war overseas. While serving in Germany, Ronsel was treated as an equal. There was no distinction between the races, even among the German people that he encountered while on leave. This is quite a shock to him, but he soon becomes accustomed to it and he states, "[f]irst time in my life I ever felt like a man first and a black man second." However, it's quite a different story when he returns to rural Mississippi. His reentry into the Jim Crow south is not a smooth one. Jamie also struggles upon his return. Like many returning soldiers he can not escape the horrors of the war. Jamie and Ronsel develop a fragile friendship based on their experiences and this friendship causes ripples of shock, not only through their families, but more ominously throughout the town.

Also central to the story is Jamie's brother Henry and Henry's wife, Laura. Laura is shocked and unhappy when Henry announces that he has bought a farm (without consulting her) and that they will be moving there from Memphis. Laura is a city girl who finds herself living in a rundown shack with no indoor plumbing or electricity. To make matters even worse, Henry's mean-spirited and racist father will be living with them. Tensions continue to rise when Jamie returns from war and moves onto the farm to help Henry.

drew me in right from the start with a dramatic opening scene that hooks the reader. Right from the very beginning, Jordan skillfully reveals small seeds of information that leave the reader asking questions and wondering what actions led up to this moment. And that's all within the first three pages. It is hard to believe that this is Jordan's debut novel! Not so hard to believe is that she was awarded the Bellwether Prize for fiction for Mudbound. The intent of the Bellwether Prize is "to advocate serious literary fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. The prize is awarded to a previously unpublished novel representing excellence in this genre."* As I said, I'm not surprised at all.

Image from Google Images
*Quote from Bellwether Prize website


Tammy Howard said...

On a roll indeed!

Anita said...

Congratulations on your bookroll!!! We are just basking in your happiness, and soaking up more titles to read!

Terra said...

THis book sounds great! I have such a huge list of books to read I don't know how to control it! Maybe I can catch up over the summer? HA!

Anonymous said...


One more for my pile(s)...when will I ever catch up? Actually I love having lots of great books on my list. I hope your streak doesn't end...I so enjoy your reviews and energy about these books. I just seriously need MORE TIME.


Noah's Mommy said...

Sounds amazing...I will have to check it out...Thanks so much for coming by on my feature day yesterday....I'm so happy you did

Ronnica said...

I love it when I read a string of good books in a row. I've definitely been doing well's so enjoyable!

Gamma Sharon said...

You have me wanting to read all these books... and I haven't got "The Gargole" yet!(anxiously waiting) I am writing this title down too.

Pam said...

Tammy - Unbelievable!

Anita - I hear you! My list is growing at an alarming rate as well.

Terra - It would be awesome if you could catch up over the summer. I know that I will NEVER catch up. But it's fun trying.

Colleen - I love having lots of good books on my list, what I don't like is when they have been on the list so long and then I lose interest in reading them. I just wish I could keep up.

Noah's Mommy - It was my pleasure to visit your blog. Hope you enjoyed being SITS featured Blogger.

Ronnica - A Book Roll does feel like a gift, doesn't it?

Sharon - Can't wait to hear what you think about The Gargoyle (and Mudbound, too).

gautami tripathy said...

I loved it. It hooked me in right from the beginning.

Linking your review with mine:


Sue Jackson said...

I've heard such great things about this book! It's on the top of my want-to-read list - maybe I can convince my book group to read it next!

Thanks for the great review -


Sheila DeChantal said...

This one sounds great too.... I have to get away from your blog or I will have to go shopping at a book store! LOL

Oz Girl said...

Ok, I have started a list of must-read books. This one goes on the list. And whenever I get my reading mojo back, I'll start reading some of these must-reads! :)


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