Mudbound by Hillary Jordan takes place during some months in 1946 in the Mississippi Delta. The Second World War has just ended in Europe, and the American troops are returning home one by one. Some more reluctantly than others.
We begin some years before with the 31 year old spinster Laura, who has just come to terms with her unmarried life, which is pleasant enough. When Henry, who is 10 years her senior, begins courting her, she has no doubts though, and they marry.
After a few blessed years as a relatively carefree housewife in the city, Henry moves Laura, their two daughters and his old father to the countryside. And then things begin to unravel. Henry’s brother Jamie returns from the war, broken down and with more than a healthy need for alcohol, and the mean spirit of Laura’s father in law becomes so evident, that Laura is not sure she can stand living with him. Only Henry seems to thrive with the hard farm life, while all other around him fall to pieces.
The black sharecropper family helping out on the farm and with housework is also waiting for a son to return from the war, and when he is finally home, he ends up in the middle of a tragedy also involving Jamie and the rest of the small circle of people on and around Henry and Laura’s farm.
Mudbound is not a happy story. It does however begin and end with love, so that the reader is not left with a too sour taste. Racism in the Mississippi Delta in the late 1940’es is one of the main themes in the book along with the alienation a husband and wife can feel, even if they are happily married. It is also about how one small thing can set a whole train of events in motion, sometimes leading to immense tragedy.
Mudbound is a quiet and dark story. It is well written, sometimes almost poetic. The rain, the mud, the pain and the hatred is the background for the glimmers of love that we also encounter. Its not a fun read, but I liked it. Recommendable.