Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
Best for: Those interested in fiction told from multiple viewpoints.
In a nutshell: Post-WWII Mississippi. A white family takes over a farm that includes Black tenant farmers.
“I simply got up and went on. I bathed my sour body, combed my hair, put on a clean dress and took up my roles of wife and mother again, though without really inhabiting them. After a time I realized that inhabiting them wasn’t required. As long as I did what was expected of me — cooked the meals, kissed the cuts and scrapes and made them better, accepted henry’s renewed nocturnal attentions — my family was content. I hated them for that, a little.”
Why I chose it: I picked up this (signed!) copy at a used bookshop near my new apartment. I’ve been hearing a lot about it this awards season and thought I’d check out the book first.
Review: I tend to really enjoy books like this, where something has happened at the beginning, and the rest of the book gets us there. Bonus points when it’s told from multiple perspectives. It’s like a Liane Moriarty book, only much more intense.
Mudbound refers to the name of the farm that Henry purchases without his wife’s knowledge just after the end of WWII. It is a cotton and soybean farm, and has some tenant farmers, including a black family. The matriarch ends up working for Henry’s wife Laura, and their lives end up intertwined, at least for a time.
The book addresses issues of race and racism in the U.S., including the impact of that racism on Black men returning from fighting overseas, where they were often treated much better than in the states. Suddenly having to use a different door again, or not being allowed to speak to white people informally.
The only hesitation I have with this book is that it is written by a white woman, and while I am fully aware that the n-word was used freely during this time, I always feel a bit off when I see it written by a white person. I don’t get the same feeling as when, say, Quentin Tarantino decides to use it in every other line in a film (i.e, it actually fits in here), but it still gives me some pause. Regardless, I strongly recommend this if you’re looking for some fiction to add to your to-be-read pile.