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Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.


Mudbound - Hillary Jordan Here's something interesting about this earnest, well-meaning book. It was awarded the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, a prize granted to a book that "addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships." It was established in 2000 by Barbara Kingsolver and is funded entirely by her. Which means, of course, that she can probably hand it out to whomever she wishes. But one can't help but wonder if it isn't a conflict of interest when the author thanks Kingsolver in the acknowledgements for "turning the story into a coherent, compelling narrative [if the author does say so herself]; her passionate support of literature of social change; and the generous and much-needed award."Really?Surely if Kingsolver is awarding an author a prize, it shouldn't be for a book she more or less edited. Just seems wrong. Having said that, MUDBOUND is certainly a work that addresses issues of social justice, and so if that is the overriding criteria, then I suppose I holds, but it says nothing about the quality of the novel itself, does it?I enjoyed the book, as a quick read. The multiple points of view is well handled, although by the end I thought the narrative would have been better served by fewer perspectives. So many voices watered down the tension, for me. As well, this story of two brothers and one woman has been told many times before, and better -- I'm thinking of ON THE NIGHT PLAIN by J. Robert Lennon -- so there was little new there. Nor was there much new in the portrayal of racism in the south. Jordan competently describes it, and certainly the climax scene is as horrific and terrifying as one might imagine, but it's not new territory. I kept thinking there was a deeper, more thoughtful book lurking just under the surface that Jordan didn't quite get to. However, perhaps this is harsh criticism. It is her first novel and frankly, it's much better than THE HELP, which uses 'eye-dialect' and never really strikes a realistic chord when focusing on the African American characters (I understand the film manages this better, but I didn't see it). Jordan does better here, infusing her black characters with dignity and a simmering rage that rings utterly true. Still, Ronsel, one of the POV black characters, makes a decision at the end of the book which is unexplained, and I found that odd.In spite of this criticism -- that the book should not be awarded a prize from someone so closely associated with it, and that there is little new here -- I think Jordan has a wonderful eye for character detail, and a fine prose style. I'll look for more of her work in the future.