I found this book on a list from NPR of recommended first books from new authors. I was having a heck of a time finding one of them at my local library, & it just happened that they had this one.
I have to say up front that I have no desire to go to Mississippi--it just sounds hot, humid, poor, racist, & just plain foul. I know that's not what the state really is (I know there are probably even more people out there that have an even worse view of Missouri, maybe deservedly), but I've got to say that this book doesn't help. Alright, it takes place in 1946, so it's not like things were very progressive back then. But I think the reason that this book makes me feel that way about Mississippi is because the main character, Laura, feels that way. She's from Memphis & when her husband, Henry, uproots her from her large extended family & plops her down on a muddy Mississippi farm she's understandably upset. The change in her scenery makes her act in ways she never thought herself capable of, both positive & negative.
The character of Ronsel is wonderful too, you just want him to get the hell out of there & go somewhere he can grow & expand & fill up the space made by his potential. Jamie is the imperfect person that always is there, reminding us of our failings & weaknesses. And of course there's Pappy--you gotta hate him.
I suggest you give this one a try.