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The Wettest County in the World: A Novel Based on a True Story (Thorndike Core) Hardcover – Large Print, February 1, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 409 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Large Print, February 1, 2009
$93.60 $14.14
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This fictionalized tale of Depression-era bootlegging from Bondurant (The Third Translation) enlists the help of Winesburg, Ohio author Sherwood Anderson to investigate Bondurant family lore. In 1928, a pair of thieves accost Bondurant's real life great-uncle Forrest at his Franklin County, Va., restaurant. They're after a large cache of bootlegging money and end up cutting Forrest's throat. The story of his survival and his trek to a hospital 12 miles away has taken on mythical proportions by the time Sherwood Anderson arrives in Franklin County in 1934 to research a magazine piece on the area's prolific moonshiners. Soon after Anderson's arrival, two anonymous men appear at the same hospital, one with legs meticulously shattered from ankle to hip, the other one castrated, with the by-products of the deed deposited in a jar of moonshine. The arc of the story lies between the attack on Forrest and that on the two men. Bondurant endows his gritty story with all the puzzle-solving satisfactions of a mystery. It's a gripping, relentless tale, delivered in no-nonsense prose. (Oct.) ""
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This family saga follows the Bondurants, bootlegging brothers runnin’ stills, runnin’ loads, and runnin’ from the law in Depression-era Virginia. The book is mainly narrated through the experience of the youngest Bondurant, Jack (in truth, a grandfather of the author), and his family’s moonshine enterprise supplies the action in a plot that evokes the culture of distilling and distributing white lightning. To optimistic Jack, bootlegging is both a bond to his older brothers, Forrest and Howard, and a means to make cash to impress a girl. Forrest, by contrast, is taciturn and suspicious: the world is violent, and he meets it on that ground. Tender of the stills and imbiber from same, burly Howard is always ready to take on the Bondurants’ enemies, corrupt law officers. Wending through this conflict in flash-forward mode is novelist Sherwood Anderson, who plumbs the Bondurant story a few years after the brothers’ climactic confrontation with the county sheriff. Descriptively gritty and emotionally resonant, novelist Bondurant dramatically projects the poverty and danger at the heart of the old-time bootlegging life. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Thorndike Core
  • Hardcover: 521 pages
  • Publisher: Thorndike Press; Lrg edition (February 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1410412687
  • ISBN-13: 978-1410412683
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (409 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,165,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I am a sucker for good historic fiction and this is an excellent slice of Americana from the red clay dirt of Virginia: Franklin County, to be exact. The story starts in 1918 with the introduction of the Bondurant family and the trials of the day - the great influenza epidemic. From there the story jumps to 1934 (current timeframe) and then to and from 1928 as it brings the background into the story. This is done very nicely and the story is brought together from several angles using the real life reporter/writer - Sherwood Anderson (author of Winesburg, Ohio - now available from the Guttenberg Project public domain), as way to tell the story from the present tense. Anderson mentions that he has had run-ins with Hemmingway and Billy Faulkner - and as I read this story, I couldn't help but to see Bondurant's attempt at a similar style to Faulkner, but with an updated and more modern flair. The characterizations are rich and peeled back like an onion to reveal layer after layer of the main characters' history and development. The author also uses a technique that I haven't seen - there are no quotations to delineate the verbalizations between characters. Not unlike some of the masters of the past, Bondurant has established a writing persona - i.e. Faulkner's use of not identifying the character and making the reader use their own identification through the conversation.

Matt Bondurant calls this a work of fiction based on fact from his family's legend - thereby giving the reader a glimpse into the Bondurant family tree. The time frame are the years just before prohibition has been extinguished, and the moonshine business is in full swing in Franklin County with the Bondurant brothers thick in it.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
During Prohibition and beyond, Forrest, Howard, and Jack Bondurant (the author's great-uncles and grandfather) decided that one way to keep their families going through the worldwide Spanish flu epidemic, Prohibition, the Great Depression, and a crippling drought was to found a moonshine dynasty. The infamous Bondurant brothers were major bootleggers in Franklin County, Virginia, which Sherwood Anderson, covering a story there, called "the wettest county in the world."

Although the material that Bondurant has to work with reflects a fascinating period in America's history, I found his presentation of it somewhat dry (no pun intended!) and often confusing. He chooses to use a straightforward prose style that minimizes punctuation; for example, quotation marks are eliminated altogether and commas nearly so. This style can be intrusive even in the best writers' hands (Cormac McCarthy comes to mind). There is, after all, good reason why punctuation was standardized to begin with: Remember your primary teachers telling you that it is meant to help the reader? It's true, for this reader at least.

Also, the novel jumps around in time, from 1918 to 1934 to 1928 to 1929 and again to 1934, back to 1919 then to 1930, and so on. To a limited extent, this approach helps pique the reader's interest, as when, for instance, we meet two of the Bondurants' competitors in the hospital, appallingly mutilated, while in the reader's mind the Bondurants are still just simple farming folk. Because the timeframe moves so frequently and randomly, though, the reader finds himself often disoriented and struggling to piece together the story.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
To dismiss the infamous Bondurant brothers as simply country bootleggers would be selling them short....and risking your life.

They had carved a nice living as moonshiners in Franklin County, Virginia, but that is not even half of the story. Each played a role in the criminal success story due to very unique personalities; Jack was always angling to strike it rich through a big score, Howard was a haunted veteran of World War I who enjoyed drinking the hard stuff as much as marketing it and Forrest was a tough as they came - he had a deep neck scar to prove it - once walking nearly 12 miles in the snow to receive medical assistance for a slit throat.

But when the trio refuses to pay "security" money to police, it leads to an even more wild ride in the turf wars where only the strongest could survive to fight another day, where the battles during the waning years of the Great Depression included shootings, knifings, beatings, shakedowns and brutal types of revenge that were fates worse than death for men.

Author Matt Bondurant chronicles these turbulent times of his grandfather and two granduncles in this novel that is based on the true story of their lives and the ripping apart of the veil that covered the lawlessness through a 1935 conspiracy trial which took down many players, but found journalist Sherwood Anderson chasing the shadows of the brothers to get to the heart of the story while attempting to break the county code of silence found within this vicious game.

Through dialogue and gripping scenes that are not for the faint of heart, Matt Bondurant brings to life an era where big city gangsters may have captured the national headlines, but these rural areas packed a gangland cruelty that was especially brutal. And that Matt Bondurant is talking about family makes this story even more compelling.
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