A friend of the family told me to read Mudbound while I was away in Florida. I had my own stack of books with me during my trip, so I threw this one in my suitcase to read at home. Even after I got home, I kept passing Mudbound over. I was supposed to give the book back on Thanksgiving, so the day before I figured I would pick it up and read a few pages, just so I could honestly say that it wasn't for me. Instead, I was pulled into the story and wasn't giving the book back until I had read it to the last page! If I hadn't been brining, basting, and roasting, I would have finished Mudbound in one day, easily. Great book, and worth having to put it in the mail back down to Florida.
I hesitated in reading Mudbound, because I thought it would fail in giving me something that I hadn't read before. Mudbound is not the first book I have read that deals with racial Mississippi. It's not the first to use multiple narrators. It's not the first to examine the dynamics of a family you would probably hate if they were your neighbors. It's not the first book that kept me turning the pages. Still...Hillary Jordan's debut novel, Mudbound, surprised me. With all of these common, familiar elements in place, Jordan is able to weave a story together beautifully, with subtlety, yet grabs you by the shirt and doesn't let go.
The rules of behavior between whites and blacks in rural Mississippi after WWII are painfully clear. No one wants to rock the boat. No one wants to cross that line. No one wants to find out what could happen if those rules are broken. No one except Jaime McAllen and Ronsell Jackson -- two boys who form a friendship after the war, and come to live on the same sharecropper farm with their families in the Mississippi Delta. The narration switches between the Jackson family - Ronsel and his parents Hap and Florence - and the McAllen family - Jamie, his brother, Henry, and Henry's wife, Laura.
Hillary Jordan was able to narrate this story from these six characters' points of view, and maintain a fluidity that made it very easy to turn the pages. She didn't use the musicality of her characters' voices, like Cathryn Stockett did with The Help, but the differences of emotion and tenor were there, especially between the voices of the two women, Florence and Laura. The climax of the novel brought out the power of Jordan's writing and used the technique to its fullest.
I could smell the farm, I could feel the mud, and I could hear the rain. This was some great writing.