He­roes gets stuck in the mud

African-Amer­i­cans faced a harsh, bru­tal life in 1940s Mis­sis­sippi. By Shirley Whiteside

The Herald - Arts - - Books -

MUD­BOUND Hil­lary Jor­dan

MWil­liam Heine­mann £12.99 any African-Amer­i­cans fought for their coun­try dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, only to find on re­turn­ing home that their po­si­tion in so­ci­ety was un­changed. In the south­ern states, seg­re­ga­tion was still a way of life and no amount of medals for brav­ery would al­low a black man to sit at the front of the bus. This bla­tant in­jus­tice is heart­break­ingly brought to life by Hil­lary Jor­dan in her de­but novel, set in 1946 in the Mis­sis­sippi Delta – where life on the land was tough and racism ca­su­ally en­demic.

In a tale that has echoes of the nov­els of John Stein­beck and Alice Walker, Jor­dan re­lates the story of the McAl­lan fam­ily, strug­gling to make a liv­ing from their farm, and their ten­ants the Jack­sons – a black share­crop­per fam­ily. Henry McAl­lan has brought his city-born wife Laura and their two young daugh­ters to the Delta, where she is hor­ri­fied by the prim­i­tive con­di­tions on the farm he has bought and the fact that Pappy, Henry’s bit­ter old fa­ther, is to live with them.

She has com­pan­ion­ship of sorts in Florence Jack­son, who be­comes her maid, while Hap, Florence’s hus­band, works the fields. When Jamie, Henry’s charm­ing younger brother, and Ron­sel, Florence’s eldest son, meet, they form a friend­ship based on their shared ex­pe­ri­ences of the hor­rors of the war in Europe. But in a town where a black man has to en­ter the gen­eral store by the back door, this friend­ship only serves to stir up trou­ble. Ea­chofJor­dan’smain­char­ac­ters–Henry, Laura and Jamie McAl­lan, Hap, Florence and Ron­sel Jack­son – take turns to nar­rate the story. This does re­sult in a lit­tle too much ex­po­si­tion at times, but the var­ied view­points al­low for an in­ti­mate in­sight

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