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The Wettest County in the World: A Novel Based on a True Storyby Matt Bondurant
Synopses & Reviews
Based on the true story of Matt Bondurant's grandfather and two granduncles, The Wettest County in the World is a gripping tale of brotherhood, greed, and murder. The Bondurant Boys were a notorious gang of roughnecks and moonshiners who ran liquor through Franklin County, Virginia, during Prohibition and in the years after. Forrest, the eldest brother, is fierce, mythically indestructible, and the consummate businessman; Howard, the middle brother, is an ox of a man besieged by the horrors he witnessed in the Great War; and Jack, the youngest, has a taste for luxury and a dream to get out of Franklin. Driven and haunted, these men forge a business, fall in love, and struggle to stay afloat as they watch their family die, their father's business fail, and the world they know crumble beneath the Depression and drought.
White mule, white lightning, firewater, popskull, wild cat, stump whiskey, or rotgut — whatever you called it, Franklin County was awash in moonshine in the 1920s. When Sherwood Anderson, the journalist and author of Winesburg, Ohio, was covering a story there, he christened it the "wettest county in the world." In the twilight of his career, Anderson finds himself driving along dusty red roads trying to find the Bondurant brothers, piece together the clues linking them to "The Great Franklin County Moonshine Conspiracy," and break open the silence that shrouds Franklin County.
In vivid, muscular prose, Matt Bondurant brings these men — their dark deeds, their long silences, their deep desires — to life. His understanding of the passion, violence, and desperation at the center of this world is both heartbreaking and magnificent.
"Bondurant writes fiercely and passionately....We are aware from the first page that we are in the hands of a remarkable storyteller." San Francisco Chronicle
"Descriptively gritty and emotionally resonant, novelist Bondurant dramatically projects the poverty and danger at the heart of the old-time bootlegging life." Booklist
""Bondurant is a nimble writer, especially when it comes to depicting gore and guts. His descriptions of the warped and wounded...can leave a reader queasy, but the liveliness of his writing makes it hard for even the most lily-livered to look away....Bondurant's prose is lyrical..." Louisa Thomas, New York Times Book Review
"This is a cracklingly good novel, with plenty of action and local color; it has already been picked up for movie treatment. Recommended." Library Journal
"Gritty, gripping depiction of very wild lives." Kirkus Reviews
"[E]ngrossing....[Bondurant is] wonderful at evoking historical atmosphere — the elaborate stills camouflaged in the woods, the music, the drunken gatherings that explode into shattering violence. (The book would make a teriffic HBO series.) (Grade: B)" Entertainment Weekly
"Brilliantly conceived, and so close to home, this novel proves Matt Bondurant's burgeoning talent — a book for thirsty American readers to guzzle down, a book for all young American writers to admire." Alan Cheuse, author of The Fires
"In his scintillating new novel, Matt Bondurant explores a crucial period in the history of Virginia and of his family. His gorgeous, precise prose brings to life an amazing cast of characters, including Sherwood Anderson, and the often deadly battles of Prohibition. The Wettest County in the World is a remarkably compelling, highly intelligent, and deeply moving novel." Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street and Eva Moves the Furniture
"Bondurant tells a distinctively American story. The gritty, suspenseful narrative gripped me and wouldn't let me go. It also touched my heart in all the right ways. Matt Bondurant's writing is as full of beauty as it is of verve and grit. Thank God it's legal to write so well." Lee Martin, author of River of Heaven and The Bright Forever
"Interweaving the bleak portraits of Walker Evans, the charged landscapes of Annie Dillard, and the breakneck plotting of Cormac McCarthy, Matt Bondurant mines his own family history to offer a novel that's both a gritty, fast-paced tale of bootleggers and car chases and a timeless hard-knock ballad, a myth fixed in the amber of one small community's imagination. The Wettest County in the World is a suspense story dashed to tintype smithereens, each one a jewel." Elis Avery, author of The Teahouse Fire
Bondurant weaves a compelling tale of violence, desperation, and greed, as three brothers run moonshine in Virginia during prohibition, in this story that is based on a true story about his grandfather and two uncles.
About the Author
Matt Bondurant was born and raised in Alexandria, Virginia. He received a B.A. and an M.A. in English at James Madison University and a Ph.D. at Florida State University where he was a Kingsbury Fellow. His short fiction has appeared in journals such as Glimmer Train, Prairie Schooner, and New England Review, among others. His first novel, The Third Translation, was sold in fifteen countries. He currently lives and writes in northern New York.
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