I received this book for my birthday from my doting boyfriend, and though I’d never heard of it before or it’s author, Hillary Jordan, I did not question the literary taste of my beaux. And I was rewarded for my trust, the book was so interesting I finished it within less than a week. Plus, it’s also a film, so I can force my lover to spend even more time with me watching its dramatisation- aha jokes on him. So, even though I’m not really too sure on what to write about this tome, my eagerness outweighs trepidation.
Mudbound is the sombre yet violent tale of two families intertwined in America’s deep south after the return of soldiers who survived WW2- The McAllans and the Jacksons. Both families are dealing with the trauma of holocaust seen from the air (Jamie McAllan was a fighter pilot) and the earth (Ronsel Jackson fought in a tank), however both families experience this PTSD under very different circumstances back home in Mississippi. The Jacksons are black, in an area where confederate bigotry still puffs up the chests of pathetic white men like hot wind in a balloon- but a lot more deadly than I was anticipating.
I feel Hillary Jordan uses these racial differences to create parallel characters, enabling the reader to see how, even though the characters don’t think it, they have more in common than they think. Florence and Laura are both the respective housewives of their family; slaving away to look after their families. However, Florence is sure and suspicious of outside forces (especially the sinister enroachment of the white man upon her family) where Laura crumbles with neglect, her husband looking at the muddy fields he bought with more affection than he ever looks at her. Both women are forced to help out people who they would rather not, but both arguably become stronger. There’s Henry and Hap- with Hap being loving and hopeful to Florence where Henry is stoic and aloof. Of course there’s the parallel between Ronsel and Jamie- both handsome, seemingly enchanting war heroes, but once the surface is scratched this persona falls apart. Ronsel is lovestruck and alone, leaving a secret behind in Europe that could cause serious danger if it comes out in the KKK badlands of his home state. And Jamie is a crumbling man, patching up his broken parts with smiles and whiskey to try ride the pain- his father, Pappy- the underpinning character of evil in the book, who all characters must navigate with caution- forever enticing Jamie to become like him: bitter, cold and selfishly hateful. Not one character in the book is a ‘good guy’ (though I would argue, either Florence or Ronsel come the closest). Prejudice is a way of survival, and intentions are muddied with politics as soon as they’re breathed.
This book is about life being messy; about how sometimes you have to do the wrong thing to get a right outcome. It is a book seething with anger, and especially female anger. There’s Vera Atwood, whose husband is the lowest of low and who meets a sticky fate, with perfect justice in tow- even if violence and disobedience to your husband is a sin. There’s Florence’s curses and voodoo, and Laura’s infidelity with the most forbidden of fruits. People fall into deep enclaves of rage, bubbling out the margins of silence in death-glare looks and turned shoulders. I’m not saying the message of this book is that its okay to be violent and angry, but it does explore how those emotions are inevitable, how redemption can come through uncivilised means. The story is told through individual voices, which I think adds to the alienation and anger- even the voice whose telling story never knows the full picture or motives, not even their own.
This isn’t so much a happy read, but gripping and thought provoking on matters of morality and what really constitutes as evil- law or passion. I recommend highly, after all- if its good enough for a Netflix film, its good enough for me xoxoxox
“Sometimes it’s necessary to do wrong. Sometimes it’s the only way to make things right. Any God who doesn’t understand that can go fuck Himself.”