Tackling “race” relations in the American South can be treacherous, particularly when the author is white and writing from the black perspective. Anytime an author writes in the voice of another group (ethnic, gender, social class, et cetera), he better know what he is doing. Three of the six characters that Hillary Jordan gives voice to in her debut novel, Mudbound, come from a family of black sharecroppers, yet Jordan does an admirable job of creating original and culturally significant characters.
Through alternating voices, each fairly unique, Jordan offers a fresh look at an old—yet never trite—subject. While the social issues largely revolve around ethnicity, Jordan also addresses sexism, class division, war and the trauma from war. Against a well-painted landscape, the story of Mudbound unravels at a wonderful pace; when the climax drops, the reader feels as though he is living through the drama in real-time.
Some turns were a little too convenient—characters in the right place (or wrong place) at the right time, Points A, B, and C connecting too easily, and so forth—but it still worked. There were enough surprises and original takes on the subject that the story was largely believable.