I can't imagine I am the first person to come up with the above title, but I can think of no other way to express my admiration for this book. And by admiration, I do not mean the awe-struck, wow-this-is-pretty-writing regard that which I would give a brilliantly constructed book that engendered my respectful yawning.
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan absorbed me from page one. Forties-era Mississippi is presented by shifting points of view from interacting characters who are opposite sides of the same puzzle: A culture-shocked wife digs deep inside herself when brought from the city to the mud-encased farm her husband buys. He clings to worn-out values, while his too-attractive brother attempts to overcome the mark of their abusive father and the bigoted culture in which they were raised. The black patriarch of a family sharecropping on this farm invokes religion to help him remain steady in this rage-invoking culture. His son, home from the war and having tasted equality while overseas, struggles to shake off the yoke of racism. His mother allows nothing to stand in the way of protecting her family.
When I think of the farm, I think of mud. Limning my husband's fingernail, and encrusting the children's knees and hair. Sucking at my feet like a greedy newborn on the breast. Marching in boot-shaped patches across the plank floors of the house. There was no defeating it. The mud coated everything. I dreamed in brown.
Racism could replace the word mud, as described here. It weighs down each character, it weighs down the town, and it weighs down our country. Jordan infuses this tale of two families, bound by the patch of earth they share and by the horrors of Jim Crow, with intricate subplots of family dramas that in the end all weave together.
Both these families of the American South are smashed against the rocks of a past and present stained by slavery's legacies.
This is not a long-ago tale-1947 is but 62 years ago. The United States Census Bureau defines a baby boomer as someone born between 1946 and 1964. If the boomers are still of cultural import, then our Jim Crow past should be front and center. Never forgotten.
I thank Hillary Jordan for this incredible book, which, while reading as swiftly as the latest thriller, lingers in my heart, as should the sorrowful past we all live with. Never forgotten.
About Randy Susan
Causes Randy Susan Meyers Supports
Women for Women
New England Home for Little Wanderers