Of men and ‘Mudbound’

Posted: Tuesday, March 8, 2011
By Ben Beagle, bbeagle@batavianews.com

Hillary Jordan’s debut novel “Mudbound,” which chronicles the lives of two families on a Mississippi Delta farm after World War II is frequently compared to works by William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. It’s also drawn comparisons to the current bestseller by Kathryn Stockett, “The Help.”

Readers who gathered Monday at Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, Medina, have another title to add to the list: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.

“Mudbound,” like “Mockingbird,” explores issues of racism and morals.

The two novels evoked similar feelings, said Kristine Mostyn, assistant director of the library.

The overarching theme of Medina’s discussion was sadness: how unmercifully Ronsel was treated, the misfortunes that befell Jamie and the continual bitterness that Pappy imbued into the story, Mostyn said.

“The war made Ronsel realize that he was a man, more than just a black man. To go from being treated poorly to being treated the same as everyone else opened his eyes to who he was and who he wanted to be,” Mostyn said readers determined.

The discussion group featured 11 people, all regulars at Lee-Whedon gatherings. They found “Mudbound” to be a very well written story, with Jordan vividly portraying all of the characters who they said “felt real and could easily be related to,” according to Mostyn.

“Several people mentioned that they felt it was one of our more lively discussions of late,” Mostyn said.

Also discussed:

— We discussed social injustice and its relevance to the time period of hte book and today.

— What has and has not changed between now and then.

— The discussion also covered morality and killing. “Some people felt that Pappy’s murder was righteous and well deserved. Others felt a twinge of guilt over his murder,” Mostyn said.

— Racism was touched on as well. “It was inexplicable that a differnece in skin color filled people with such hatred and anger,” Mostyn said.

— As for Pappy, Mostyn said, “everyone was glad that he was not given a voice in the story. His bigotry and bitter attitude did not need furhter voice. We felt that his burial showed in part how Jordan felt about what he represnted; being buried with the bones of a slave, his coffin breaking, and the prayer from Hap.”

— Favorite characters were Florence and Laura. “Florence, for her insight into others and the ability to say what needed to be said,” Mostyn explained. “Laura, for her ability to endure life on the farm and yet still have a little spunk left.”

What books have you read that remind you of “Mudbound”?

Post your comments below or e-mail lifestyles(at)batavianews.com.

You can also join the discussion on the “Tale for Three Counties” Facebook page.

Two discussions remain before author Hillary Jordan visits for a series of talks and booksignings this weekend. The schedule:

* March 9: 7:45 a.m. Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia; and 12:30 p.m. Genesee Community College, Batavia.

* Jordan’s appearances are scheduled for March 10 to 12. She has two talks and book signings on March 10: 1 p.m. at Genesee Community College and 7 p.m. at Richmond Memorial Library, both in Batavia. Other programs with Jordan are set for 7 p.m. March 11 at Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, Medina; and 2 p.m. March 12, at Perry Elementary/Middle School, 50 Olin Ave., Perry, in a program

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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