I recently read the awesome and amazing When She Woke which you all know that I loved beyond words so I had to check out Hillary Jordan’s first novel – Mudbound. I blasted through this novel in about two days. It is really not typically something I like to read about – 1940’s Mississippi but this was very well done. I have come to two conclusions from this book : Sex = awesome and life-renewing, Racism = sucks. Really who can’t get behind that message….
Laura is this city girl who is somewhat plain and everybody thought she was going to be an old maid, until the day she meets Henry McAllan. He’s older and has some prospects so she agrees to marry him. They have some kids and life is going okay. Then he decides to move her to Mississippi to his farm, with his Pappy – a horrifying old racist a-hole. She is somewhat resentful and kind of over the whole thing when the war ends (WWII) and who comes back but Jamie – younger brother of Henry. He is everything Henry is not, handsome, young, witty, charming, but also full of PTSD issues and dealing with it the old-fashioned way – getting drunk a lot. You might be able to see where this is going…..Meanwhile, the oldest son of the black sharecropper family on the farm also comes back from war and he is having issues with war as well, but also coming back from fighting for a country where he is a second-class citizen. Soon Jamie and Ronsel, the sharecropper’s son, strike up a friendship – a dangerous thing in 1940s Mississippi. All of these relationships clash in an intense climax that will leave you shocked and thoughtful.
This book stuck with me long after I read it…..something I love. The relationships between all of the characters struck me as interesting and realistic. The entire book is written where each chapter is from the viewpoint of a different character, which is great because so much of the turmoil is within these characters and only bubbles out at the end. All of the characters are flawed and sympathetic, they do things you can’t understand and then you somehow do understand. Can you tell I really liked this book? I can’t wait to see what Hillary Jordan writes next! I give this book eight and a half shoes – sparkly Ugg boots – it’s not something I would usually go for but I totally like them anyway.
If you like the aspect of a woman dealing with moving in with family she is uncomfortable with try Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay about a woman who is forced to move in with her in-laws when her husband loses his job but finds living unbearable with her father-in-law, a cruel religious fanatic. Or try Wallace Stegner’s Angel of Repose, a Pulitzer Prize winner. In this novel, Lyman Ward, a wheelchair-bound historian whose marriage has failed, decides to write a fictional biography about his pioneer grandparents to discover why they grew apart over the years. Through their letters and documents, Lyman pieces together the story of Susan, his grandmother, who moved from the East Coast when she married his grandfather, Oliver Ward, a mining engineer in the late nineteenth century. (taken from RA Online)
For some non-fiction books on racism try Sons of Mississippi by Paul Hendrickson. The author has taken the photograph on the cover of seven men, all white and county sheriffs in Mississippi who were determined to keep James Meredith from integrating the University of Mississippi. He weaves together their life stories with that of their children and James Meredith’s children to provide a context for race relations then and today. For a first-person account, try Bone Black by bell hooks in which she describes her own childhood as a “challenging” child who wanted to think for herself.
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