By Hillary Jordan
Completed May 23, 2009
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan was an exquisite piece of modern Southern literature. In her debut novel, Jordan crafted a story of family, race and farm life set in 1940’s Mississippi. Heart-wrenching, Mudbound will leave any reader stunned by the tragedy of the American South from not too long ago.
The book has several narrators: Laura, a Memphis belle who reluctantly moved to her husband’s farm; Henry, her husband who loved his farm more than anything; Hap, one of Henry’s tenants; and his wife Florence, a superstitious midwife who could smell trouble a mile away. Added to this mix were Jamey and Ronsel – veterans who came home with a restlessness that could not be resolved on the farm.
At the root of this story was the racial injustice prevalent in the 1940’s South. Hap, Florence and Ronsel experience racism every day of their lives– from deferring to their white neighbors to using the back door at the local store. Ronsel, after fighting for his country, could not readjust to the white-centric society. After discovering he fathered a child with a woman in Germany, Ronsel realized that the time to go was now.
However, the white people of this farming community had a different plan for Ronsel, who they found uppity and disrespectful. I don’t want to give away too much, but Ronsel’s ordeal was heart-breaking. He was a character I was rooting for, and I was disgusted with how he was treated by others.
Jordan’s characterization was spot-on. There were characters you loved, ones you felt sorry for and others you hated. It saddens me that racism is part of Southern history, but I believe it’s important to read stories, such as Mudbound, to remind ourselves about this struggle for equality. I highly recommend Mudbound to Southern book lovers everywhere. ( )