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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mudbound

Though the assured prose and unique use of six narrators grabbed me immediately, about 80 pages into "Mudbound" (2008), my guard went up. As the tale of two families in Jim Crow Mississippi right after WW II began its slow build, I felt a familiar sensation; novels like this often take a toll on me.

I was right to be concerned. About 70 pages later, the oldest son of the black family in Hillary Jordan's stunning debut describes in flashback the liberation of Dachau; I had to stop reading for a while. Horrifying as that experience was for Ronsel Jackson, he has returned home to a country prepared to torture him further. As Act Three in Jordan's classic structure began, only her undeniable skill as a writer propelled me forward. Nobody can enjoy what they read in a book like this. But anyone open to them can learn important lessons.

"What we can't speak, we say in silence". Even though that sentence is nine pages from the end of "Mudbound", they could have easily been the final words. I don't believe it's a coincidence the words have the familiar ring of Martin Luther King: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter."  Nor do I believe it's a coincidence this talented author has the youngest son of the white family speak the words at the top of this paragraph.

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