Book Review: Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

A generic U.S. World War II tank, a derivate o...

A generic U.S. World War II tank, a derivate of Image:TM-9-374-T25E1-1.jpg, background removed (transparent), hue set to steel blue, reduced size and colors. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This historical novel begins with the burial of a man hated for his cruelty, then goes back in time, leaving the reader wondering why he was so reviled. The story slowly unfolds, beginning with the wooing of Laura by the man’s son. Laura is a typical spinster teacher until Henry comes along. She likes him and eventually is eager to marry this young engineer, imagining that they will always live in the city near her family. But what she doesn’t know is that her new husband wants to farm. His dream leads her and their children to an isolated place, where black sharecroppers and tenants help with the work, and where the hard farm work and the care of her difficult father-in-law dampen her enthusiasm for life and her marriage.
You might think that this tale of misery would falter in the farm’s mud, but you’d be wrong. The two soldiers returning from World War II add tension and the ultimate storyline that reveals why her father-in-law is being buried. Along the way, Jordan delves into the world of black southern farmers who dream of owning their own land, where one false step can lead to ruin, and the assumptions whites made about blacks before the civil rights movement came along.
Jordan makes this world come to life, with beautiful descriptions and the inner dialog of the characters, especially Laura’s. If you like reading about what makes a marriage work, along with some history, or enjoyed The Help, I think you’ll like Mudbound as much as I did.

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