The Wettest County in the World: A Novel Based on a True Story

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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. Howard, the eldest brother, is an ox of a man besieged by the horrors he witnessed in the Great War; Forrest, the middle brother, is fierce, mythically indestructible, and the consummate ...

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Lawless: A Novel Based on a True Story

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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. Howard, the eldest brother, is an ox of a man besieged by the horrors he witnessed in the Great War; Forrest, the middle brother, is fierce, mythically indestructible, and the consummate businessman; 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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

"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 endows this gritty story with all the puzzle-solving satisfactions of a mystery. It's a gripping, relentless tale, delivered in no-nonsense prose." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"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

"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

"Bondurant writes fiercely and passionately. Severe violence, thrillingly rendered, pervades this book, which will remind readers of hard-hitting Southern writers such as Cormac McCarthy and Larry Brown. ....The story Bondurant has to tell is riveting, detailed and historical. His knowledge of Southern culture is as deep as his ancestors' knowledge of making whiskey. We are aware from the first page that we are in the hands of a remarkable storyteller." — San Francisco Chronicle

"Bondurant is a nimble writer, especially when it comes to depicting gore and guts. His descriptions of the warped and wounded (a man lying in a hospital bed with "skin blanched like boiled meat; the bedding stained with a yellowish fluid" 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.......who can deny the power of a narrative so deeply rooted in childhood imaginings, when a mild and quiet grandfather hung those brass knuckles on the wall?" — New York Times Book Review

Louisa Thomas
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…Despite the bloodshed and the poverty, his Franklin County is no dystopia, and despite the violence of his plotting, Bondurant's language tends to be optimistic and buoyant, almost boyish.
—The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
Hard-living bootleggers and crooked lawmen wrestle for control of the moonshine business in a fictional re-creation of the hard past of a lawless county. Drawing on his real life relatives and actual events, Bondurant (The Third Translation, 2005, etc.) sends past-his-prime author Sherwood Anderson into the hollows of western Virginia in the mid-1930s. Reduced to working for newspapers, the author of Winesburg, Ohio is there to report on the saga of the Bondurant brothers and their bloody defiance of corrupt attorney Charles Carter Lee. Anderson hopes to reclaim his place in the literary world with an accurate portrayal of these tough men. But no one will talk to an outsider about the bootlegging business or the series of shootings and knifings that continued to characterize Franklin County through the end of Prohibition and led ultimately to the longest criminal trial in the history of the Commonwealth. The Bondurants, like all the distillers in their mountain county, work in secrecy, carrying out their trade alongside legitimate businesses, eking out incomes shrunk to near nothing by the Great Depression. Sons of a law-abiding tradesman, the brothers were set on their shady paths by the sweeping forces of World War I and the epidemic of influenza that killed their mother and all but one of their sisters. Army veteran Howard, brainy Forrest and their admiring youngest brother, Jack Bondurant, took up the dangerous business of white lightning as reasonably-or unreasonably-as today's ghetto youths take up drug dealing. What put them in mortal danger in an already dangerous business was not the roaming federal investigators but their refusal to join the cartel run by the county's top legalfigure. That they survived not only the warfare but massive doses of their own potent liquor is a testament to a kind of toughness that may no longer exist. Gritty, gripping depiction of very wild lives. Agent: Alex Glass/Trident Media Group
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416561408
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 12/29/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 83,512
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Matt Bondurant is the author of three novels, the most recent of which is The Night Swimmer. Lawless—previously published as The Wettest County in the World—was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and one of the San Francisco Chronicle’s 50 Best Books of the Year. His first novel, The Third Translation, was an international bestseller, translated into fourteen languages worldwide. He currently teaches literature and writing in the Arts and Humanities graduate program at the University of Texas at Dallas.

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Read an Excerpt

Prelude 1918

The brindled sow stood in the corner, glowering at the boy. Jack Bondurant hefted a bolt-action .22 rifle with a deep blue octagon barrel, the stock chewed and splintered from brush and river-stone. He chambered a round, walked over to the sow and put the end of the barrel about a foot from a pink eye and squeezed the trigger. Across the yard his father and brother were tamping damp earth in the tobacco pit under the barn.

There was a crack and a slanting spray of blood and the great bulk of the sow shivered, the rifle falling into the muck, Jack leaping over the rails of the pen as the sow charged, a smear of blood on her forehead and a patch of glistening bone. The sow trotted around the pen, then backed into the corner. Jack retrieved his rifle through the boards, scrubbing off the muck with his shirtsleeve. He spat and worked the bolt action and reentered the pen and kneeling down in front of the sow, sighted the barrel down the length of her snout. He hooked the trigger again, crack, and the sow reared up slightly on its stubby back legs. On her forehead there was another slice of chipped bone, the blood spreading darkly into the pink eye. The shoats in the next pen set up a braying squeal and horned their snouts between the boards, ears flattened. Jack chambered another round, placed the barrel against the sow's head and fired. The bullet burrowed under the skin of her skull like a tunneling rodent, pulling back rippled folds over her eye. Jack squatted, watching the old sow pick herself up and circle on unsteady legs. He gripped the hacked stock of the rifle and rocked slowly on his heels, his feet burning in his boots. He squeezed his eyes and stifled a sob that erupted from his stomach.

When Jack looked up his older brother Forrest was there in the pen. A lean teenager with a permanent smirk, his blond hair dusted with red dirt from the tobacco pit, Forrest straddled the sow and sat down on her back, pulling her snout high with his forearm. As the sow's back arched the white folded flesh of her neck stretched tight. Reaching around with the other hand Forrest brought a long boning knife across her throat in a short rip of skin and metal. The blood came in a hot gush on the muddy straw and the sow's whine bubbled, the jet of lung air spraying from the open neck. Her body quivered and then went limp in Forrest's hands, tiny front legs dangling, body bent like a dead fish.

The next moment their father was there with the heavy chain and they used the tackle to hoist the carcass up to drain, Jack's father setting a metal bucket under the swaying body. Hot blood smoked in the calcified winter air. Jack crouched on the ground like a muddy toad, cradling the rifle and watching the stream of crimson like liquid fire. He was eight years old.

That next summer the Spanish Lady Flu epidemic swept through the southeastern states, finding its way into the deepest hollows and mountain ridges of Franklin County. The county went into self-imposed quarantine. Generations of families had known the ancient periodical ravages of sweeping illness like diphtheria, influenza, smallpox, and the certain knowledge of death's deliberate visitation ground all activity to a standstill as families huddled together in their homes. Jack's father, Granville Bondurant, closed up his vacant general store, itinerant mendicants and blasted road-men his only occasional customers. Families relied on the saved stores of food stockpiled in root cellars, cool springhouses. The Brodies who lived across the broad hill stopped coming down the dirt road by the house, as did the Deshazos, a black family that lived a half mile off. The pews of Snow Creek Baptist Church stood cockeyed empty and hooded crows roosted in the crude lectern.

The Bondurant family was prepared with plenty of dry goods from the store and Jack's mother had enough canned vegetables and meat to last them through the fall and winter. The family stayed close to the farm. It was a glorious time for Jack because it meant his older sisters Belva May and Era and his brother Forrest were around all the time, hanging about the house in the mornings, spending the long afternoon and evening in the family room by the stove. In those days Jack's father was what men called a cut-up, a man who grinned brightly through his thick beard in the evenings when his children rode his bouncing knee like a bucking horse or when he stood by the hot stove with other men at the store, quick with a wisecrack, his short white apron clean and starched. He didn't drink liquor, went to church regular, and still laughed a dozen times a day.

Forrest had a secondhand bicycle and in the afternoons Jack chased his brother down the wide field in front of the house, along the crumbling banks of the creek, laughing in the golden afternoons, the fields of purple clover at sunset, a haze of velvet across the rolling hills. After dinner his sisters clustered on the coarse rug in front of the stove, knitting and talking, Belva May and Era tying Jack's hands and feet with yarn, conspiring as Jack struggled, the girls laughing and speaking their own private language. His younger sister Emmy, the closest to his own age, clung to their mother, shadowing her through the kitchen and sitting in her lap in the rocker by the window. Emmy had an innocent air, naïve and quick to bawl, and so Jack was often left to entertain himself alone in the barns, long fields, wooded stretches, and the muddy branch of Snow Creek that ran through his parents' farm. In the evening his father Granville grinning through his beard, feet on the stove, their mother rocking by the window endlessly smoking hand-rolled cigarettes, blowing long plumes of smoke and watching the road for the rare traveler and for her oldest son, Howard, who was due to return from the war in Europe.

Jack's oldest brother Howard spent most of 1919 on an army troop ship, first crossing the Atlantic from England and then anchored in Norfolk harbor in quarantine. Influenza was rampant on the ship, nearly half the men consumed with it on the voyage across, the deck littered with gaunt men in stretchers hacking and moaning into the scraps of cloth laid over their faces. At night Howard slept on a high stack of onion crates in an attempt to get space on the crowded ship and away from the red-eyed coughing devils, weary officers wading through the crowds with flailing canes, the reeling sick that clung to the rails. As he tried to sleep, struggling through the massive stink of onions, Howard tried to think of the hills and valleys of home, the smell of deep clay, the foaming loam of a freshly plowed field, the hollyhocks and honeysuckle along Snow Creek. But in his dreams the black sickness spread through his body and across the water and across the hills and into everyone he knew, and when he opened his eyes in the morning there was the horror of men dying in their own filth.

A third of the men in his company died in the six weeks they sat floating there in the harbor in a line with dozens of other ships. Every night the harbor blazed with the ghostly fires made of the clothing and belongings of the deceased.

When finally released Howard wandered through the city like a blind man. He quickly got blistering drunk on rotgut liquor and the next morning burned his service uniform and papers in a trash-strewn lot behind a boardinghouse.

A few days later Howard came off the train in Roanoke like a specter, the flesh curved into the hollows of bone. Howard was a giant man, broadly built and more than six and a half feet tall and his massive frame was wrapped tight like a ghoulish nightbreed. Granville came by the depot to pick him up in early November, the first frost wilting the creeper along the roadside and Howard never spoke of what happened to him in France or aboard the ship, and no one ever asked. For Jack, his oldest brother Howard was a stranger, just some older boy he happened to be related to, a bulky shape he remembered from early mornings as a young child, now a man stomping through the house, an angular shadow that crouched at the table and quietly inhaled his food. Howard kept away from the house most of the time, staying out through the night, and when he returned he reeked of corn liquor and collapsed into his bed like a dead man.

One night in December, toward the end of the epidemic, George Brodie hammered on the Bondurants' front door in the middle of the night. Jack was tucked under his heavy quilt, swaying lightly on the rope bed he shared with Forrest, and when the noise started his brother shot up and was out the bedroom door before Jack pried his eyes open. Brodie kept pounding away on the door until Granville jerked it open and Jack heard his father curse Goddammit, Brodie! Jack slipped out of the warm bed, the air sharp with cold, and stepping into the hall he saw George Brodie on his knees, the moonlight shining over his shaking shoulders, hands covering his face.

Jack had never seen a grown man cry before, and for a moment it struck his sleep-addled mind that Brodie was sleepwalking like Forrest sometimes did. The Brodies lived a mile away if you came through the narrow wood trail, more than three if you took the road. Had Brodie gone mad? Brodie raised his head and said something Jack couldn't make out, but he saw the tear streaks on the man's dirty face; he heard the crack in his voice that was unmistakable to a child. Granville turned and said something to Forrest and Jack watched his brother turn and come back down the hall, shirtless, his skin milky in the hazy light. Forrest shoved Jack inside and told him to go back to bed and shut the door.

For the next few minutes there was a hurried discussion in the front room. Jack heard his mother in the kitchen, the bitter scent of brewing chicory coffee. He lay there, staring into the dark, listening as hard as he could. Then Forrest saying something and his mother's voice raising a bit, an edge to it: I won't have it, Gran, I won't have it. The sound of his sister Era crying out. The sound of more weeping that made Jack shudder in the swinging bed. The front door shut, the gleam of an oil lamp under the door winked out, and footsteps padded down the hall. Then silence.

Jack lay there for nearly an hour before he understood that Forrest wasn't coming back, that Brodie had borne him off into the night and his parents had let him do it, and he gripped his blankets and grimly fought tears until morning.

Granville and Forrest returned late the next afternoon. Jack rushed the door as they walked up the slope but his mother swept him back with her arm. She had set out a supper on a small end table out by the toolshed, chicken, biscuits, and greens covered with cloth napkins, a pitcher of water, along with buckets of water, towels, and soap. Jack watched from the window as Granville and Forrest ate their supper out in the cold, their breath steaming in the yard. After they ate they built a large fire and filled the hog-scalding trough with water and began to strip down. His mother kept his sisters in their room but let Jack stand there as his father and brother washed themselves with the hot water, dumping buckets of it over their heads, pouring it over their reddening skin. Jack was astonished at his father's hairy body, a large swatch covering his chest, the thickness of his middle, his narrow legs and knobby knees, how he tottered when he walked. His face was set like granite as he tossed their clothes into the fire. Next to his father, Forrest looked small and frail, hugging himself against the cold, but he turned and spying Jack gave him a grin that lit the young boy's heart on fire.

They toweled off, wrapped in blankets and sat by the fire, Forrest every once in a while glancing toward the house where Jack and his mother stood in the window. The afternoon began to fade into evening, sparks from the fire swirling in the wind. Jack's mother tensed up, raising her shoulders and rapped sharply on the window with her knuckles. His mother and father exchanged a long look from across the yard and Jack knew that some essential transaction was occurring. She nodded imperceptibly and Granville got up and came toward the house, Forrest following. His mother fumbled with the door, ran across the porch, and threw herself onto Granville, clutching at his back with both hands as the blanket slipped from his shoulders. Granville put his arms around her and rested his cheek on the top of her head, his beard frosted with breath.

Forrest walked by his clinched parents and stepping up on the porch, gave Jack a grin and a solid punch in the chest before striding back into the bedroom with the blankets trailing behind him, his pink shoulders shining.

That night when they lay in bed Jack asked him what had happened but Forrest said Jack was too young and that he'd tell him later when he was older. Jack persisted and Forrest told him that George Brodie panicked when his youngest daughter began to convulse in her bed, her pillow a smear of bloody spew. His wife was already comatose and near death. Granville said he would come, and would bring his oldest daughter Belva May to help. Jack's mother protested. Era was inconsolable; she threw herself around her sister's neck. Granville was going to insist until Forrest spoke up, saying that he would go instead of Belva May, and with the smoky oil lantern in hand the two men and the boy walked back through the woods and over the ridge to the farm, where Brodie's family lay dying.

Then Jack asked if Forrest had the Spanish Lady Flu and Forrest chuckled and said nothing.

Are we going to get sick too? Jack asked. Are we going to die?

Forrest was quiet for a moment before turning to Jack in the dark. The windows were tacked over with quilts for the cold and there was no light but Jack could tell he was looking at him.

You think anything can kill the old man? Forrest said.

Of course not, Jack thought, but didn't say anything. Their father? The world would stop turning first. He blinked in the darkness. Forrest's eyes glimmered like fading coals.

That's right, Forrest said, as if he heard his thoughts.

Nothing can kill us, Forrest said. We'll never die.

The next morning Howard returned to the house, rumpled and surly. He had spent the night sprawled under a pile of burlap sacks behind a filling station in Boone's Mill, sleeping off a half liter of white mule. He gulped a cold breakfast of biscuits and ham on the front porch, wiping his hands on his greasy overalls, Jack sitting quietly beside him, drinking in the sour smell of his older brother. Howard stood and gave Jack a good pop on the back of the neck before lumbering off to the barn to help Granville with feeding.

A few days later Jack's mother, Forrest, Belva May, and Era were all stricken with the flu. The following days passed quickly. Jack felt like he was still in the twilight between sleep and wakefulness. Emmy knelt by the water pump, wringing the laundry between her red fingers as she rocked back and forth. Granville stood quietly for hours in the dim hallway like a ghost. Howard sitting awkwardly on the front step, long legs angled in front of him, hat in his hands, his slablike face blank.

On the morning his mother died, Jack stood by his father's chair and Granville put his hand on his son's shoulder as he gazed out the window toward the long road. Howard leaned against the stove, arms crossed over his broad chest, frowning at the floor.

Oh boys, Granville said. It's all gone.

Howard raised his head and stared at his father.

All the goodness has gone out of the world, Granville said.

There were tears on his father's face and Jack's heart squeezed like a fist. Though he tried hard not to, he broke down and sobbed on his father's shoulder.

Jack's mother died first, then a day later Belva May, followed immediately by Era. Forrest lay in bed like a stone for a week, his face impassive and leaden, refusing to eat anything. His skin puckered and turned an impossible shade of blue for a few days, soft and hazy like a robin's egg. Then one morning he rose from his bed. Afterward Forrest always retained the knobby aspect of illness, and in certain types of light his skin still had a blue cast to it. When he emerged after that week, his body gaunt and wasted, his eyes sunken, to join Granville, Emmy, Howard, and Jack at the breakfast table, it was as if his strength had withered and focused itself like a leather strap. Jack remembers taking a biscuit from the plate, his shaking hand.

His mother and sisters laid out on the floor, covered with a quilt.

Nobody said anything. Copyright © 2008 by Matt Bondurant

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Reading Group Guide

Questions For Discussion

1. Upon the death of his wife, Granville Bondurant says, "all the goodness has gone out of the world." What does he mean by his sentiments? How is each member of the remaining Bondurant family impacted by this death? How do they bear out Granville's sentiments?

2. Discuss the night that Forrest Bondurant's throat was cut at the County Line Restaurant? What do these events and the stories they spawned reveal about Forrest? Maggie? The community?

3. Discuss the symbolic significance of the opening sequence, the sow's slaughter. How does it relate to the novel's major themes?

4. Why do you think Matt Bondurant decided to make Sherwood Anderson, author of Winesburg, Ohio, one of the principal characters in the novel? What does Anderson allow the reader to understand about the Bondurants and the larger community in which they live? Discuss the parallels between this novel and Sherwood Anderson's own work.

5. Discuss the female characters in the novel. Discuss the role women place in this world? What do the women reveal about the men of Franklin County, particularly the three brothers?

6. How do the brothers and the people of Franklin County negotiate and make sense of their lives in relation to the natural world?

7. Jack thought of Howard as "some kind of machine or animal, reacting to the world in an instinctual manner." Why is this line of thought both comforting and frightening to Jack?

8. Explain the sequence of events that precipitates the Great Franklin County Moonshine Conspiracy Trial of 1935. What were the outcomes of the trial for the Bondurants?

9. What parallels does Anderson draw between the Bondurants' struggles and his own literary battles? Do you agree with his assessment? Why or why not?

10. What is the picture of the American psyche and way of life that emerges from Bondurant's story? What are the threats to this way of life? Where do you believe the author's sympathies lie? Where do yours?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Who is Sherwood Anderson? What does Bondurant intend for us to understand about his inclusion in the novel? Consult, which publishes an online version of Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, a group of short stories about small town life. What do his stories reveal about his point of view on the world? What do their narrative structure, style, and characterization allow us to understand about The Wettest County in the World?

2. Immerse yourself in the sounds of the era by purchasing and playing moonshine songs at your book club meeting. These songs tell their own tale of the moonshine lifestyle. You can listen to a sampling of the songs at these websites:


3. Want to sample moonshine? You can acquire legal moonshine called Virginia Lightning for your book club meeting by visiting and ordering from

4. Attend the 10th Annual Moonshiners Jamboree held on the first weekend of August 2008 in Climax, Virginia. The festival celebrates the region's history of moonshining with music, food, and displays of moonshine stills. Get directions and ticket information at Simon & Schuster

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Customer Reviews

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( 50 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 50 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2011

    I could almost taste the moonshine!!

    Matt Bondurant is a great visual writer. The great detail in the book made me feel as though I was in 1930's Virginia. The story is about 3 brothers in the bootlegging business, all at different stages in their lives. Its a story about life lessons, greed, love and loyalty. I loved it and towards the end of the story I could not put the book down. The only part I think some people might have issues with is keeping up with the timeline. The story bounces around from one year, to the next, then back again. I loved it!! I would read it again and I cant wait to see the movie version at the end of this year. If you're into crime dramas or if you're a history buff like I am, you're going to love the book as well.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 27, 2012

    Great Book and Great Movie... Lawless

    Really enjoyed the movie Lawless and got the book right after watching the movie.

    Unique writing style threw me off for awhile and I ended up starting the book over once I got the feel for the writer. Still a great book and there are incidents in the book that aren't in the movie, so it is worth the time.

    Highly recommend them both. I would read the book 1st if I had it to do over again.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2012


    This book is just amazing & the movie is even better.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2008

    Fantastic second novel that should be on everyone's Must Read List!!!

    The buzz from the literary community surrounding this second novel by Matt Bondurant is more than warranted--this is a fantastic literary novel that has mass market appeal as well due to the author's firm grip of the craft of storytelling, and the tension underlying the action is masterfully done. It is always hard to write about a literary novel as a 'page turner' but this is indeed what Bondurant has created here by delving deep into the mythology of his own ancestry--this is fictional account of a true story, and because of this, the resonance of the ghostly voices of Bondurant lore carry with them the certainty that there is nothing 'false' about their painful and beautiful stories. This novel is full of the unexpected and macabre, in the vein of Chabon or Pinchon, yet has the muscular characters and pressure chamber tension of McCarthy or McMurtry. This novel will surely drag Bondurant out of the quagmire of hundreds of 'new writers' and into the spotlight of novelists who are considered to be at the top of their game. I, for one, will be expecting this to show up on quite a few shortlists for major awards this year.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 24, 2012

    A good read.

    I enjoyed the book, it has good character development and a good feel for the times and the setting. I have a personal interest in the story, as my mother's family home is just to the west of the locale. I prefer historical fiction, and this novel fit the bill.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2012


    If you missed how to make a genuine still in the Foxfire books, stay awake reading this one and you will learn why they were made; if you can't get past page 46 you have no business messing with the stuff in the first place. This book is an excellent account of the business, calling it fiction is just another swerve in the road keeping those d@mned revenooers off your tail. There they are now! Hide the jar!! Later, man...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2013


    Odd plot pacing

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2013

    Great historical read

    Thumbs up

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2013


    Well writen! Makes you feel as if you were there! Never gets old!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2014


    Read this book before watching the movie. Matt Bondurant tells a family tale better than most at a a family gathering. Great read!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    Loved it! Quick read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2013

    Good as the movie

    Th book is awsome it kept you engaged all throught

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  • Posted January 7, 2013

    Good read

    Alittle slow a times, but overall it was an interesting book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2013


    Saw movie and wanted to resd book great book put me right there in the moment

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012

    Don't Recommend

    I didn't finish this book. I read all the time , but I couldn't figure this story line out. I was confused from the first chapter.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2012

    Not good

    There seemed no character development and no real narritive here. What story was it about. Forced myself through it but wish I hadnt wasted my time.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2012

    Story of bootlegging in the 1920s and 1930s.

    Well written story of three brothers who run moonshine in Franklin County. The story of their struggles and triumphs.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2012

    wait for the movie, if at all

    just could not develop an interest in this book.....some good scenes but in the long run left me uninterested....abandoned book mi way through

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2012

    I kind of lost interest.... I kind of lost interest.. I kind of lost intetest....

    Was anticipating all the fast paced excitment as the Lawless movie portrayed. Apparently when they say a movie is based on a true story one really needs to take it with a grain of salt. Was not enough build up of some of the people in the beginning of this book which made it difficult to connect thier significance of the events portrayed. Frustrating to read and a bit drawn out.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2012


    I tried to like this book. I read up to page 46, i could not continue.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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