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Book Review: Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Rachel Saylor


While reading Mudbound, you may look down to see if you have mud caked under your nail beds, or wipe at your face thinking you have dirt smudged across your cheek. Jordan plants the reader in rural Mississippi farmland so well that you'll forget you're not the one ploughing the fields, picking the cotton, and experiencing the daily vexations of farm life. The transplanting experience of reading Mudbound is guaranteed to make you more fully aware of the effects of racism, sexism, and classism, making you want to fight for a world of love. 

Mudbound takes place in the 1940's during WWII and the Jim Crow era, with racial tensions high in rural Mississippi. The reader gets to digest the story from all of the main character's perspectives, giving a deep understanding and insight into each character's strengths, downfalls, and motivations.  

Author, Hillary Jordan raises the question as to whether anyone is either truly good or bad or if there is always a grayness to people's actions and intent. At times, you are rooting for different characters and in the next moment, you are disgusted at their lack of values. Jordan shows what it is to be human. Selfishness, lust, racism, dutifulness are among the issues Jordan explores in Mudbound. 

Reading this book during a time when white supremacists are so openly coming forward and marching, maskless, shamelessly believing they are better than others and believing white males came by this land honestly through raping, pillaging, and enslaving natives already living in the U.S. is a reminder of the damage this group is capable of and on the verge of repeating. This book is a reminder of how awful privileged whites have been in the past. Hopefully, it will instill a fire in you to fight those who wish to regress and oppress now and in the future. 


Rachel Saylor


My brain feels a little fried from a couple of hours of long, boring edits that were a necessity for my novel today. Don't get me wrong, I've thoroughly enjoyed editing my novel. Filling plot holes, answering open ended questions and building out stronger characters in my story has been an absolute joy. Some edits are just a little less fun than others, like switching up the perspective of how it's told.

To decompress from those edits, I read an insightful article written by the author, Hugh Howey called Writing Insights Part One: Becoming a Writer, which every writer should read by the way. This is the first of four installments he has written, and I can't wait to dig into the rest of his knowledge he has to share with writers.  

I needed time to digest what he wrote, think about how to apply his suggestions to my life right now, and let the words seep in, letting the inspiration take its course. I decided the best way to do this was to also let my body digest dairy-free, coconut milk cookies-and-cream ice cream. Straight from the carton. I found myself scouring around the coconut cream in search for the real reason I was eating the ice cream: the cookies. As I furiously mined for the golden nuggets, I realized how silly it was for me to rush through the equally delicious goodness of the coconut cream. Here I am, lucky to have an ice cream substitute that won't hurt my stomach, yet, I'm on the hunt for the rare cookie bites, and I'm not letting myself be satisfied until I have a cookie bit on my spoon. I could've just bought a bag of cookies if that's all I want to enjoy from eating it. So, I stopped searching for rarer bites, and just enjoyed the entire experience. One creamy bite at a time. 

It made me think about how easy this mindset is to get into with my craft of writing and for anyone with a creative passion. We want to plow through what we deem as the boring parts of what we do and get to the end product or success. What if we took the time to enjoy those parts we begrudgingly zoom through normally? What if we open our eyes and find beauty and joy in those aspects of our craft that we've so easily placed on our chores check list? 

I want to enjoy my craft of writing and all that comes with it. I want to be in it for the whole journey and not just the end goal, which in the end could lead to disappointment, especially if that goal does not come to fruition. Finding happiness in my craft each day is what's going to propel me forward and keep me going. I'm still aiming for my end goal. I still desire publishing novels that people enjoy getting lost in, but I'm going to enjoy each day I work towards getting there. 

I hope you can do the same with your craft too. What's there to lose trying to find a little more joy in your life? 


Book Review: The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

Rachel Saylor


Fiona Davis whisks us away to New York City in the 1950's to the infamous Barbizon Hotel filled with young aspiring secretaries, models, actresses and the like all looking to secure a career, as well as scoop up a husband to bring true security. Although the Barbizon, aka the Dollhouse, is most known for the famous ladies it housed like Liza Minnelli, Grace Kelly and Sylvia Plath, Davis brings the women's only hotel into a new light, incorporating all of the women who lived there. 

The Dollhouse brings the rise of women in a man's world, the pulse of bebop jazz, the mix of spices that will send your head swimming, love, and heartache in the fast paced, dazzling New York City to create a page turner novel, making you forget mealtime, and bedtime, for that matter. 

The story is told from two women's perspectives: one from a reserved aspiring secretary living in the Barbizon in 1952 and the second from a determined journalist living in the same Barbizon building in 2016. Both women search for ways to make peace with the past, as well as create a self-relying life, sans men. That's not to say there aren't some juicy love interests throughout the book. 

This book will take you a week or less to read. Take yourself on a trip to New York City, if just for a day and experience it in the 50's. Play some bebop jazz in the background and make an exotically spiced meal to eat while you read. Trust me. You'll get it once you read the novel.