Pages - 324
Published by Windmill Books in 2008
Challenges - 100+, Southern and A to Z Authors.
The book is set in Mississipi Delta in the year of 1946. Henry McAllen decided to uproot his wife and children from the city and move them to a farm which is basically rundown and far from everywhere. There is no running water, no bathroom and no electricity and life is tough. Henry's wife Laura does not feel the love that Henry feels for the country, she has always been used to the finer things, so this was a real hardship for her to stand. Whilst Henry works the land, Laura is left to struggle raising their two young children in their desolate house, with her only company being her horrid father in law who is the worst racist you would ever meet. Laura struggles to cope, but finds life just gets even harder when the rains come, turning the farm into acres of mud and blocking them off from the rest of civilization. They become Mudbound.
The story really takes off with the arrival of two young men returning from fighting in World War 2. Firstly there is Jamie McAllen, Henry's younger and more attractive brother has no where else to go and returns to help his brother run the farm. He is haunted by the atrocities of war and turns to alcohol and Laura to help him fight it. Secondly there is Ronsel Jackson, the eldest son of the black sharecroppers living on the McAllen farm. He has left the war a decorated hero, only to come home to severe racial abuse from the white people of the town. Ronsel and Jamie make an unlikely and unwanted friendship which will alter both their lives for ever.
This is a powerful book which slams racism right in your face and really makes you think about how black people were treated in the early 1900's. It had a similar affect on me as Beloved did and made me grateful for the life of freedom and choice I have. The bigotry of the people in that town was unbelievable cruel.
Mudbound is told through the voices of the various characters in the book and they are all very strong characters who deal with unbelievable hardship. Laura, Henry's wife, learns to survive through hardship to become a strong women in the end. Florence, Ronsel's mum is an amazing character and would not be beat down by the white people of the town. These characters all show their weaknesses which make them the people that they are. They are well written and each have great depth.
My favourite character in the book was definitely Ronsel. He tries so hard to fight the bigotry of the town. He has been through so much during the war, fighting for his country that he struggles to come back and be treated like a savage. It really is heartbreaking.
One of the most memorable passages in the book is by Ronsel, when he talks about what he saw on arrival at the concentration camp.
'There was a big iron gate set in the wall with German writing on the top. Then we seen the people lined up in front of the gate, naked people with sticks for arms and legs. SS soldiers were walking up and down the lines, shooting them machine guns. They were falling in waves, falling down dead right in front of us. Sam took the soldiers while Captain Scott's tank busted down the gate.
Hundreds of people - if you can call skin scraped over a pile of bones a person - came staggering out of there. There heads were shaved and they were filthy and covered with sores. Some of them ran off down the road but most of them were just walking around in a daze. Then they caught sight of this dead horse that'd been hit by a shell. It was like watching ants on a watermelon rind. They swarmed the carcass, ripping off pieces of it and eating them. It was horrible to see, horrible. I heard one of the guys retching behind me.'
This type of passage is one that will stay in my mind for a long time. The book deals with two type of racism - the racism against black people as well as the racism by the Nazi's against the Jewish people. The similarities in the way they were treated like savages is clear from the start.
I found this book a compelling read, one where once I had started, I struggled to put it down. Their are twists and turns all the way through the book and it ends with a very dramatic finish.
It is the type of book that you can imagine being made into a film, because it has everything from romance to guilt, from friendship to war and the story just explodes out of the pages.
This is definitely one of those books you just have to read.
This is Hilary Jordan debut novel, which she won the Bellweather Prize For Fiction with. If this is her first, I can't wait to read her second, because it is bound to be as powerful as the first.
If anyone else has reviewd it, let me know and I will add a link into mine, to give a more balanced view.
Thanks for stopping by.