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First US edition
AuthorHillary Jordan
CountryUnited States
PublisherAlonquin Books (US)
HarperCollins (Canada)
Heinemann (UK)
Publication date
March 2008
Media typePrint

Mudbound (2008) is the debut novel by American author Hillary Jordan. It has been translated into French, Italian, Serbian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Turkish and has sold more than 250,000 copies worldwide. The novel took Jordan seven years to write. She started it while studying for an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.[1][2] It was adapted as a 2017 film of the same title.

Plot summary[edit]

In the winter of 1946, Henry McAllen moves his city-bred wife, Laura, from their comfortable home in Memphis, Tennessee to a remote cotton farm in the Mississippi Delta—a place she finds both foreign and frightening. While Henry works the land he loves, Laura struggles to raise their two young daughters in a crude shack with no indoor plumbing or electricity, under the eye of her hateful, racist father-in-law. When it rains, the waters rise up and swallow the bridge to town, stranding the family in a sea of mud.

As the McAllens are being tested in every way, two celebrated soldiers of World War II return home to the Delta. Jamie McAllen is everything his older brother Henry is not: charming, handsome, and sensitive to Laura’s plight, but also haunted by his memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black tenant farmers who live on the McAllen farm, comes home from fighting the Nazis with the shine of a war hero, only to face far more personal—and dangerous—battles against the ingrained bigotry of his own countrymen. It is the unlikely friendship of these two brothers-in-arms, and the passions they arouse in others, that drive the novel to its tragic conclusion.



Reviews were generally positive :

  • The San Antonio Express-News says "Jordan picks at the scabs of racial inequality that will perhaps never fully heal and brings just enough heartbreak to this intimate, universal tale, just enough suspense, to leave us contemplating how the lives and motives of these vivid characters might have been different."[4]
  • Publishers Weekly concludes "Jordan convincingly inhabits each of her narrators, though some descriptive passages can be overly florid, and the denouement is a bit maudlin. But these are minor blemishes on a superbly rendered depiction of the fury and terror wrought by racism."[5]
  • Emma Hagestadt in The Independent wrote "Adultery and alcoholism, rough justice and racism may be the stock in trade of any number of Southern novels, but Jordan neatly sidesteps pat endings and solutions. The novel's alternating narrative voices work well. Only Ronsel's wartime flashbacks, which are uneasily shoe-horned into the homespun domestic drama, feel forced. The flat landscape of the Delta and its sudden electric storms provide a suitably gothic backdrop for the shocking denouement to come. The winner of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for a novel "promoting social responsibility", Hillary Jordan is happily a writer who puts her duty to entertain first".[6]
  • Ron Charles in The Washington Post said Jordan "builds a compelling family tragedy, a confluence of romantic attraction and racial hatred that eventually falls like an avalanche. Indeed, the last third of the book is downright breathless. But, unfortunately, all of these narrators lack the essential quality of incompleteness. They're burdened with such thorough self-knowledge that the book has no room for dramatic irony. "What we cannot speak," Jamie thinks toward the end, "we say in silence," which is odd coming from a character who has already told us everything, including painful things we should have been allowed to infer. Jordan has plenty of talent to compose an engaging story, and when she tries to do less, she may very well end up doing more."[7]


Jordan is writing a sequel with the working title FATHERLANDS. In MUDBOUND, black American GI Ronsel Jackson has a love affair with a white German woman during the American occupation of Bavaria; when he ships out for home, neither know that she is pregnant. The new novel centers on their illegitimate son, Franz, who is raised in Germany by his impoverished mother. As one of the "Mischlingskinder," mixed-race children who were the products of such controversial unions, he grows up feeling like an outsider who doesn't belong. When he is 7, his mother is forced to put him into foster care. At 18, Franz sets off for America, determined to find the father he never knew. There, he is caught up in the turmoil of the Civil Rights struggle and forced to navigate a complex tangle of race, history and politics in his search for self-realization.


  1. ^ Hillary Jordan, author of MUDBOUND and WHEN SHE WOKE | Bio Archived 2013-10-02 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  2. ^ Interview with Hillary Jordan, Sept. 8, 2010 Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-11. Retrieved 2013-09-14.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link), Hillary Jordan website
  4. ^ Book Reviews - Mudbound by Hillary Jordan Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  5. ^ Fiction Book Review: Mudbound by Hillary Jordan, Author . Algonquin $21.95 (328p) ISBN 978-1-56512-569-8 Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  6. ^ "Reviews: Mudbound, By Hillary Jordan", The Independent, Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  7. ^ Ron Charles, "Water Rising", Washington Post, 06 March 2008; Retrieved 2013-09-14.

External links[edit]