Wednesday, February 17, 2010

MUDBOUND by Hillary Jordan

I tried very hard to like this book, but it was just too predictable and tragically familiar. It's about bigotry in Mississippi right after WWII, and it's relentlessly depressing. There are six narrators, three white and three black. Laura and Henry McAllan are a white Memphis couple who move to a house without indoor plumbing on a Mississippi farm, and Laura is remarkably complacent about her new circumstances. The third white narrator is Jamie, Henry's much younger charismatic brother, scarred on the inside from his war experiences. Pappy, father to Henry and Jamie, joins the family in Mississippi, and he has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The black narrators are the Jackson family, Hap and Florence, employed by the McAllans, and their son Ronsel who served in a black battalion in Germany. It's no surprise when Ronsel and Jamie become friends, despite constant admonishment from both families. The Jacksons are concerned for Ronsel's safety, and the McAllans feel that it's just plain wrong for whites to associate with blacks as peers. One could excuse the McAllans as products of their times, but that's letting them off the hook way too easily. Florence Jackson is my favorite character, a midwife to the black families, fiercely protective of her own, but compassionate enough to help Laura's daughters recover from whooping cough. Late in the novel, she decides to take matters into her own hands—finally someone with some gumption—but finds that someone else has beaten her to the punch.


Rose City Reader said...

Patti -- I am glad to find your blog. I found it when looking for bloggers reading the books on the Modern Library list. This list inspired me to start my Rose City Reader blog, so I like finding book bloggers with similar interests.

Like you, I finished the books on the Modern Library list. But I haven't finished the Radcliffe list -- I have another 12 to go. That is my goal for this year.

Happy reading!

Patti said...

Excellent! There are some gems on both lists that I had never even heard of. ANGLE OF REPOSE is now one of my all-time favorites. Thanks for commenting.