Mudbound Summary & Study Guide

Hillary Jordan
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Mudbound Summary & Study Guide Description

Mudbound Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Mudbound by Hillary Jordan.

Mudbound is the debut novel by author Hillary Jordan. In this novel, two families' lives are irrevocably changed by the events of one night. Laura thought she would never get married, but soon finds herself a wife and mother living on a farm in the Mississippi Delta, dealing with the mud, a cantankerous father-in-law, and a drunken brother-in-law haunted by what he has seen and done in the war. At the same time, strong-willed Florence finds herself fighting a battle on the home front to protect her family from the racism that threatens to poison all she holds dear. On one night both these women will find themselves on opposite sides of the fence fighting for the same purpose. Mudbound is a novel filled with well-drawn characters and a climax that will leave the reader thinking about it even after the final sentence.

Laura resolved herself to the idea that she would die an old maid after her thirtieth birthday when it seemed no man would ever ask for her hand in marriage. However, just weeks later Laura meets Henry McAllan, an intelligent, educated man who works with her brother and seems interested in her. For weeks Laura and Henry court, but when Henry announces he must leave the state for a job, Laura believes her hopes have once more been dashed and she will remain forever single. Two months later, Henry returns and asks Laura to marry him.

For several years Laura and Henry live a happy life in Memphis, bringing into the world two beautiful little girls. War breaks out during this time, taking two of Laura's brothers and Henry's youngest brother, Jamie. It is a difficult time, but Laura counts herself lucky that she has not lost anyone she loves to the distant war with Germany. Then, a short time after peace is declared, Laura's brother-in-law commits suicide, prompting Henry to decide that he must move up his plans to buy a farm in the Delta section of Mississippi in order to be near and to care for his widowed sister.

At first Laura is shocked and frightened to leave her family in Memphis, but wants to support the wishes of her husband. Laura is consoled by the idea that Henry has rented the family a house in town rather than planning on having her live on the farm. However, when they arrive in Marietta, they learn that they have been swindled and there is no rent house. Laura and her daughters are forced to set up housekeeping in the tiny, rustic house on the farm. Laura is forced to learn not only how to live on a farm, but how to live without such modern conveniences as electricity and running water. To add to her troubles, Henry has brought his cantankerous father to live with them.

The farm includes six tenant families. Henry asks three to leave because he has bought a tractor to handle the bulk of the farm work. One of the families he allows to stay is the Jackson family, a black family. Immediately Henry's father reveals a deep seated prejudice for the family, but Laura embraces the presence of Florence, the matriarch, happy to have someone to talk to during the long, difficult days on the farm. Unfortunately, Florence's husband, Hap, breaks his leg and Florence must work in the fields to make up for his absence, leaving Laura alone in her home once more.

With the war over, Florence and Laura both look forward to the return of family, Florence her son Ronsel, and Laura her beautiful and charming brother-in-law, Jamie. When Jamie arrives, he is clearly marked by what he has seen in the war and drowns his sorrows in drink. As Jamie's depression and alcoholism deepen, he befriends Ronsel and they begin to drink together. This leads to trouble, however, when Ronsel is spotted by Jamie's father in the front seat of the farm truck. Pappy has already labeled Ronsel a troublemaker. Then Pappy finds a letter from a white woman to Ronsel announcing the birth of their child. Pappy cannot let this slide and he organizes a lynching party to teach Ronsel a lesson. Jamie happens upon the unfolding tragedy and tries to stop it, but is forced instead to choose the punishment Ronsel must suffer.

When Florence learns that old man McAllan and his friends have cut out her son's tongue, Florence goes in search of revenge, but finds she is too late. Jamie has already put his father out of everyone's misery.

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