Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

It’s shortly after the end of World War II, and Laura is adrift in her role as farmer’s wife.  Raised in Memphis, she is used to what we would consider basics – electricity and running water.  When her husband Henry moves her and their two daughters to a farm in the rural Mississippi Delta, Laura suffers a city dweller’s learning curve, to be sure.  It’s only her strong feelings for Henry that sustain her, but he becomes increasingly distant as farming needs take more of his attention.  Making things even more of a challenge is Pappy, Henry’s caustic father, who makes Laura’s sojourn in the country a living hell when he comes to stay with them.  

Life on the domestic front is further complicated with the arrival of Jamie, Henry’s younger brother, and Ronsel, the oldest son of a sharecropper family that lives on Henry’s land.  Both men are seasoned war veterans back from the European front, battling their individual demons, and for Ronsel, dealing with the ingrained racism of his own country.  Both show great promise and personality; it’s the social norms of the 1940s Deep South that make shambles of such possibilities.

Mudbound has multiple narratives, and begins with a burial, although I won’t tell you who – you’ll find out quickly enough, although the cause of death remains a mystery until near the end.  At first, this book looked like another Southern Gothic novel of poverty and racism, but the writing is spirited and the pages kept turning.  

 Mudbound is availbable in either print or e-book format.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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