Friday, August 22, 2008
Mudbound - Hillary Jordan
“What we can’t speak, we say in silence.” (excerpt p. 315)
“That’s what it is to love someone: to give whatever you can while taking what you must.” (excerpt p. 321)
These are two quotations I love from Hillary Jordan’s novel Mudbound. There are so many more. (Always a great indicator of a good book.)
This debut novel won the Bellwether Prize founded by Barbara Kingsolver (one of my favourite authors) which recognizes literature of social responsibility. Don’t let the words “social responsibility” scare you off. It’s a great read.
Set in the 1940s, this is a story of two families (one black, one white) whose lives intertwine as they work a Mississippi Delta farm. Mudbound is the name of the farm – and it fits. The mud, the dirt and the oppressive heat permeate their lives – as does the deep and abiding racial prejudice so many of the characters are immersed (stuck) in.
Two young men (one white, one black) return home after the war and develop a friendship – of sorts. But a black man, despite having fought for his country, is still considered and treated like a second-class citizen. Their friendship ignites existing racial tension and leads to tragedy.
As the novel came to its conclusion, I turned the pages with dread – but turn them I did. Jordan draws you into the lives of her characters, makes you care about them, feel their anger, sorrow and anguish. And their moments of joy.
It is a tale of love, lust, secrets held (to protect others, to protect oneself) and despite the tragedy that ensues, Jordan leaves the reader with hope – perhaps simply an imagined wishful one, but nevertheless, hope.
Mudbound is also a reminder of how far we have come since those times - and how very far we still have to go.