I purchased Mudbound for the library some time ago, and I actually started reading it, but then I put it down because some new book that I'd been waiting and waiting for came out, and I just couldn't help it and had to read that one. Now, I wish I would have continued with Mudbound because it turned out to be a wonderful book full of carefully crafted characters thrown together to create a compelling story of prejudice, love, family, and sacrifice.
The book is told in alternating chapters from the points of view of Laura McAllan, her husband Henry, her charming brother-in-law Jamie, and a neighboring share-cropper's son named Ronsel Jackson. Laura is a woman in danger of becoming an old maid until she meets Henry, an aging war veteran with a limp and the deep desire to become a farmer. He drags Laura away from her family and friends and plops her on a piece of ground she aptly names "Mudbound" because of its general lack of appeal. Henry's brother Jamie eventually returns from war also, becoming the light in the muddy world for Laura and her little girls. Jamie also befriends Ronsel, a war veteran himself who struggles with life after war and after love. But because Jamie is the son of a southern, white, farmer, and Ronsel is the son of a southern, black share cropper, the friendship becomes the center point for conflict both within and without the families. All these characters at some point have to deal with Jamie and Henry's volatile, ultra-prejudiced father, Pappy, who tries to rule the roost that Laura tends to, and who loves to stir up any trouble he can simply to have something to do.
This mix of characters along with the intermingling issues of prejudice, race, sibling rivalry, and farming as a lifestyle all make for a fabulous read. Reading Mudbound was a shocking look at how many Americans seem to love prejudice and feeling superior to others. Although I'd like to think much of this kind of deep ignorance has been wiped out by societal pressure, good leadership, and conscience, I know that, in reality, it still exists. People (and I include myself at times) hide their prejudices behind things like religion or law, saying that there are rules, and we simply have to follow them because someone wrote them down for us and interpreted them for us. To accept rules that are unjust or inhumane simply because they are written seems supremely ignorant to me. After all, segregation rules were law in this country at one time. Where would our country be if no one stood up against the injustice? There are still religions where women can have very limited roles or no role at all because they are inferior beings in the eyes of God. Now, I'm not saying we can be lawless or usurp the law anytime we want to, but when we see injustice, it needs to be challenged. People are people, equals in their rights to humanity and Mudbound does an excellent job of illustrating this in vivid writing and voice.
I encourage you to read Mudbound for a lesson in prejudice, freedom, equality, and good writing. Enjoy!