18 April 2014 | bytruth
On the surface, Mud's plot may seem simple, but its symbolism runs deep, and tells a story that won't stop lingering in my mind.
Caught between childhood and teenage years, two best friends, Ellis and Neckbone, are having to navigate through the murky waters of life that has surprises at every bend. When they arrive their childhood play area - a boat that has gotten stuck in the trees during a storm - they discover an adult is now inhabiting it. Just at a time when they are beginning to recognize their own pre-adult urgings awakening inside them, they discover who is living in their tree house of sort and make friends with him. He becomes a mentor to them just when the murky waters have become too muddy to see clearly, and he tells them how his own life has been shipwrecked because of a love affair that began when he was about their age.
The man named Mud had fallen in love with a girl named Juniper when he was a kid and never recovered from the experience. Just as her name implies, she is a bittersweet, prickly creature whose fragrance has gotten into his nostrils and he thinks he can't live without her. On the other hand, she is fickle with love, not appreciating what he has to offer, and only accepting it when it's according to her whims. This mirrors the relationship that Ellis finds himself in with his "girlfriend," May Pearl.
Neckbone, on the other hand, has never had anyone love him except for an uncle whose relationships with women are on his terms and usually consist of one night, or to be more exact, one afternoon, stands. On the other hand, his uncle knows how to find the pearls others don't see, and he has found one in the boy he calls Neckbone.
Ellis can't help comparing his father's relationship with his mother to his new friend, who will do anything to defend the honor of this woman, even if it means going to jail for the rest of his life, and his father is falling short in his estimation. On one hand, his father is telling him how bad women can be and on the other hand, he has this friend telling him that they are worth everything. This conflicts Ellis, and he finds himself in his own set of conflicts as he defends the girl in his life.
Mud's stories are larger than life, and one wonders what is real and what is not. Juniper calls him a liar, but is he really? By the conclusion, one begins to see that Mud's actions are not as murky as they at first seem. In the end, will the river of life lead them to larger horizons where they can grow from their experiences?