Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hillary Jordan, MUDBOUND

Wow, what a knockout of a novel. (I'm not the first to say so ... my friend Barbara thrust it at me, insisting it was one of the best things she'd read in a while ... oh, and it won the Bellwether Prize for Fiction.) Set in the Mississippi Delta during WWII, it tells the story of a white man's farm where sharecropping still takes place. Told from five different perspectives ... yes, they all sound different, hooray, the white soldier doesn't sound like the black midwife ... it's a story about money, rage, racism, what war does to people, how war and race intersect, what fathers do to sons, how our private fears and longings can have profound public consequences. The only part that jarred--and this is because the book feels so very fresh and original in other ways--was the part where the black soldier Ronsel liberates Dachau. I've already read accounts, including how Americans gave out chocolate and unintentionally killed people. But that's the one little bit that felt recycled (and I'm not saying it didn't belong) in an otherwise original, suspenseful, brilliant book.

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