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Mudbound    by Hillary Jordan order for
by Hillary Jordan
Order:  USA  Can
Algonquin, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

A wonderful new voice in southern American literature - reminiscent of the best of William Faulkner and Eudora Welty - has emerged in Hillary Jordan's uncommonly powerful debut novel, Mudbound.

As a fiercely haunting and paradoxically beautiful tale of love, neglect, betrayal, and justice within and among families, Mudbound introduces readers to some of the most remarkable characters to have appeared recently in American literature:

In one family you have Henry McAllan (the successful engineer and wounded veteran of the Great War whose ties to southern traditions and his Mississippi farm dominate his and his family's life); his much younger brother Jamie (an emotionally scarred veteran of World War II whose devotion to his family and friends will be sorely tested); Pappy McAllan (the 'sour, bossy, and vain' family patriarch whose attitudes towards others in his family and his virulent bigotry threaten to destroy the entire family); and Laura Chappell (the Memphis-born English teacher, lover of Dickens and the Brontė sisters, and wife of Henry McAllan whose life becomes overturned by her husband's decisions, her brother-in-law's passion, her father-in-law's spiteful disposition, and her adjustment to a very different way of life).

In another family you have Florence and Hap Jackson (African-American tenant farmers whose reluctant relationship with and dependence upon the McAllan family will lead to strained friendships and unspeakable tragedy); and Ronsel Jackson (the World War II tank battalion veteran whose return to his family and whose friendship with Jamie McAllan will lead to consequences no one could have possibly imagined).

With the Mississippi Delta dirt of the McAllan farm as the novel's dominant symbol - an iconic allusion to the Hebrew adamah of the Old Testament Genesis - and with the author employing each of the main characters as the novel's alternating narrators, Mudbound, one of the best novels about the American south and American families to have appeared in the last quarter century, is an extraordinarily effective examination of the terrifying collision of values and attitudes in Mississippi in the late 1940s.

So, readers of quality literature, here is the bottom line: Mudbound is intense, beautiful, and unforgettable. Don't miss it!

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