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Mudbound Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book had the real possibility of being stereotypical, which it narrowly avoided. It's set in the Mississippi Delta in the years immediately following WWII, and the big themes are the unraveling of race roles and the decline of agrarian supremacy in rural America. As a High School Student in Mississippi, I got so much assigned reading with that description (ok, for good reason) that I usually stay away from it nowadays.

That said, this was pretty good. The characters were round and unpredictable, but not at the expense of acting unrealistically. It's a pretty even handed treatment of race, neither vilifying or excusing the actions of whites who were essentially good people caught in the traditions of the past. There were the usual characters present; the bigoted and hated old white patriarch, the proud, young, hopeful black male, but also many morally ambiguous characters just trying to survive in the middle ground. As a many generation resident of the tiny region this is set in, I can say she got the reverence that people treat the land with dead on.

I did find it a little funny though to write a dark southern novel set in north Mississippi that also uses Faulkner's short chapters from multiple perspectives. And I wish that I could read a southern novel set in this time period that doesn't end in utter tragedy. Sure, mid-century is an era for the south full of much pain and guilt, but not every story from that time has to end in despair.

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December 2008

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