This review is in collaboration with Instagrammer rad.movies and the second in my #FemmeMarchFest challenge. I’d been craving to read this for a long time and when this finally came through, my excitement knew no limit. Read on for my review of Mudbound, on which the Oscar-nominated film of the same name is based.
The biggest reason why certain books appeal to me is because of how strongly they make me feel. It could be anger, it could be disgust, it could be sorrow, it could be happiness. It could be that the story made me grit my teeth because I couldn’t bear what was going on in there. It could be that I’m bawling like a baby because of the heartbreak in it. It could be that the story is so funny that I’m laughing as tears roll down my cheeks. Could be a lot of things.
And Mudbound is one such book that I fell in love with because of all the anger, the disgust, and the unfairness that went tumbling through me as I read it.
Mudbound is the story of two families during the end of World War II – one black and one white. When Henry McAllan and his family come to Marietta to settle down as he wants to take up farming, he isn’t very receptive of the fact that his wife Laura isn’t comfortable with the setting. But she supports him and slowly, despite Henry’s racist and sexist father Pappy being a constant pain, gets used to what Marietta has to offer her. And then there’s Henry’s brother Jamie, considered the black sheep of the family because of his tendency to wander from the “normal” path. The colored Jackson family, consisting of Hap and Florence, and their 4 children, including Ronsel who is, at the beginning deployed overseas, is tenant to the McAllan family.
What happens when these two families come to a head in a time when racism was at its peak forms the plot for Mudbound.
There were no words in which to express my anger as the first few pages flew past. Whatever happened in those pages was chilling in the most “Oh God! I hate when this happens” kind of way. It is way worse because racism was actually a reality. To be truthful, it happens even today, though not as rampant as back then.
Mudbound is an easy read if you think of the language used in the story. But thanks to the heaviness that the topic promises and lived up to, it isn’t so easy at the end of it. So much anger and disgust radiated off of me when I progressed through the story that I had to keep taking breaks so as not to heat my brain up and explode.
Though the title itself is indicative of what the book is about, it isn’t until the first of Ronsel’s chapters that brings us to the actual point – blatant racism around the time of World War II. The way it is written is so unemotionally raw that it tore at the insides of my heart to be reading it. I didn’t think it would affect me that much, but it did. More than I expected. It absolutely disgusts me to know that the racism described in the book actually happened at one point in time. Yes, it has reduced now, but now is nothing compared to what happened back then.
You know there’s one person who you hate with all you’ve got? And when it comes to saying why, you just open and close your mouth like a fish because there’s so much to rant about that it cannot be put into mere words? Yeah. Pappy is that person for me. I say ‘person’ and not ‘character’, because such people did exist in the world in the past, if not now. This truth is one of the biggest points in the book that angered me and disgusted me to no end.
Of course, there are other characters in there, too, who are equally capable of inviting my ire. Henry, for example. He seems selfish and self-righteous to the point where he doesn’t seem to think of those around him. Plus, when it comes to standing up for his wife, he doesn’t have a spine, justifies his not doing so, and accepts whatever happens without a question – unless it diverges from what is widely accepted.
Mudbound shows progress against racism towards the farther end and gives us hope. A hope that everyone in the book gets their own happy ending. Everyone can live in harmony without harping on the color card. Color doesn’t matter one bit.
All in all, I’m glad I read this book because now, I understand how it was back then. How people thought of color and life in general. How racism and sexism was accepted as a daily way of life. And how we’ve come so far. When you compare today with back then, it’s like a Venn Diagram. The common area is there, but too minuscule in contrast with those times!
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Picture Courtesy: Amazon UK.
Click here to buy the book: Mudbound