Every two years, Barbara Kingsolver funds a prize for the best work of fiction by a new author writing about social change. Called the Bellwether Prize, the 2006 recipient was Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. A darkly brooding story, told in alternating, first-person narrative by each character, the events reveal the scarring and devastating effects of both racism and war on two families in rural Mississippi. The long-standing hatreds of the community, combined with two returning soldiers' crippling experience of violence in World War II, beget the final betrayal for each character.
Why would one want to read such a stark-sounding, downer of a book, you may wonder? Because, frankly, it is a stunning story, told in a strong, clear voice, with characters you may never forget, and, though it unveils the dark, frightening forces at work in the human soul, it also celebrates the fierce allegiances to family, land and love. Jordan’s first book is a compelling journey with the characters to a chilling and inevitable conclusion. What surprises and satisfies is how she shines a light of hope at the end.