Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Wettest County in the World: A Novel Based on a True Story” as Want to Read:
The Wettest County in the World: A Novel Based on a True Story
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,308 Ratings  ·  439 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, mythic ...more
Hardcover, 307 pages
Published October 14th 2008 by Scribner Book Company (first published January 1st 2008)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Wettest County in the World, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Wettest County in the World

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Oct 19, 2012 Bridget rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all, I watched this movie and couldn't get it out of my head, so I completely went out of my genre of reading and bought the book! At first I thought this might be a little mature for me ha ha but once I got used to the writing I was glued. It's like a school book you have to dissect. The who, what, where, whys of what they were thinking? There's so little said about each character or about a scene that you find your self more touched or more fascinated, it's weird, less is more! I felt ...more
Dec 30, 2013 Bill rated it liked it
I liked the main story of this book. The main story follows three brothers who are bootleggers and general shady characters in the early 1900s. They grew up as poor farmers in a region that became known for moonshine production during prohibition, and soon became involved themselves. Some of the more interesting pars of the book came from seeing how the three brothers were each differently suited (or unsuited in some cases,) to such a life.

However, the book really fell apart where it tried to sk
Kevin Farrell
Jun 16, 2011 Kevin Farrell rated it it was amazing
Well, it looks like I am in disagreement with others who have rated this book. The reason is two-fold. I am a fan of bourbon and whiskey; both historically and practically. I am also a fan of historical fiction that takes place in the southern US states - particularly Kentucky. How I got there is not important but this book speaks to me as though it was written for me.

It is a well written story about brothers who made moonshine whiskey in Kentucky and were feared by both their competition and th
I started listening to this book in audio format, and while I thought the narrator was fantastic, I don't think the novel's structure lends itself to audio. The story of the Bondurant brothers running moonshine during Prohibition is interwoven with the story - several years later - of reporter Sherwood Anderson trying to uncover the Bondurants' involvement with the Moonshine Conspiracy in Franklin County. The shifting of the narrative was confusing in audio, so I switched to the printed text, bu ...more

The Bondurant were not gangsters like that of the suburbs of New York during the prohibition. If anything they were hard workers and if they knew there was a profit the people could make they tried to survive from it.
Considering the unrelenting and unforgiving harsh climate and landscape they lived amongst and around 1918 the people died and lived through some very brutal times, epidemics, they had to be tuff and survive financially with what came their way. There was some very nasty official pe
Dec 09, 2008 Benjamin rated it liked it
Shelves: recentreads
This is a wonderfully gritty tale about the home-spun moonshining business during the prohibition years in Franklin County, Virginia. The book tells the story of the Bondurant brothers, three men who lust for money, pine for love, or just yearn to get by. The writing was so lush that I felt as if I were in Franklin County as the events were happening.

Unfortunately, the book was divided (unevenly in my opinion) between past and further past, and it was difficult to determine what was happening w
Liz Clark
Sep 02, 2012 Liz Clark rated it it was amazing
The Bondurant brothers, prohibition, and bootlegging. This story written by the grandson of one of these brothers was great. Each one of the brothers are so very different yet alike in so many ways. Personally, I was so drawn to Forrest. He was a man of very few words yet the words that he did speak were so profound. Howard always seemed like the brother that was on the verge of something whether it be greatness or madness. Then there was Jack. Just trying to make a name for himself while being ...more
W.H. Johnson
Dec 03, 2013 W.H. Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some people have all the luck: they have fathers, grandfathers, uncles, all of whom have a back-story, something to talk about down the years, something out of which a writer can make a really good story.

Not me. I seem to have come from an endless line of people who didn’t raise the dust, didn’t make a headline. Except once, when I was about eight, and I heard my mother and father talking. My father was in trouble with the police. It was in the papers. He had been fined 5 shillings for a parking
Jonathan Briggs
Aug 20, 2012 Jonathan Briggs rated it really liked it

All right, NEW RULE: Cormac McCarthy and Irishmen are exempt; everyone else must use quotation marks.

Some writers think incorporating fantastic levels of violence and jettisoning dialog punctuation will win them favorable comparisons to America's greatest living author. They are correct, in fact, but all that proves is that a lot of critics are knuckleheads. Knocking off Dan Brown probably wasn't much of a challenge for Matt Bondurant (or anyone else with a wo
Nov 09, 2009 Bridget rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2009-reads
I had an Advance Readers' Edition of this title, and I was looking forward to reading it. The story is that of the Bondurant brothers, who were involved in moonshine making and distribution during the Prohibition in Franklin County. I find this time in American history to be quite interesting, both from the temperance viewpoint and the viewpoint of those making/selling/smuggling liquor.

Maybe this is a good book, but if it is, I didn't read far enough into it to find out. The Prologue was a bit m
Aug 25, 2015 Szeee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Uramatyám, mik lapulnak meg nekem évekig a könyvespolcomon!
Épp pár napja volt a "témázó" bloggerek körében téma a két tojás, azaz hogy egyes könyvek esetleg hasonlítanak egymásra, meg hogy talán "nincs új, a nap alatt" stb. :P Én meg pont ezt a könyvet olvastam, amihez foghatót én még soha nem olvastam, se témájában, se stílusában. Persze ennek az is lehet az oka, hogy nem olvastam még elég könyvet, mert azt mondják Bondurant stílusa kicsit C. McCarthy-éra hajaz, de én vele még nem találkoztam.
Jan 25, 2016 Tom rated it really liked it
Blurbs comparing Bondurant to Cormac McCarthy do a disservice to Bondurant, whose vision is much more compassionate, humane. I've read several McCarthy books, and except for Suttree, they tend to leave me feeling impressed with the prose but otherwise numb or slightly ill. Bondurant's novel left me feeling enlightened, as well as entertained. He's certainly far, far better as depicting lives of women. His prose is very rich without turning into sludgy baroque, as McCarthy can. Here's a sample of ...more
Aug 05, 2014 Nadine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 08, 2013 Emily rated it did not like it
I'm not rating this 1 star because Matt Bondurant is a bad writer. He's not. And I like that he wrote a novel based on the lives of his grandfather, two great-uncles and the family stories about them, as well as the local legends about their indestructibility, especially that of Forrest Bondurant. I picked this up on audio because I knew this was based on a true story that I found intriguing.

The reason I'm giving it 1 star is because I hated pretty much every minute of my work commute while I li
Kris Aerni
Jul 25, 2011 Kris Aerni rated it it was amazing
You will want to take your time reading this novel, it's that good. Mr. Bondurant has a gift of painting sublte, yet vivid mental pictures through his storytelling. He will take you by the arm and lead you through a world in the early 30's when America was in the process of Prohibition. This world is both violent & romantic and just happens to sit in the deep forest mountains of Franklin County, Virginia.

This time gone by setting that "The Wettest County In the World" takes place in, will t
Mar 30, 2016 Connor rated it it was amazing

Personal Response
This was one of my favorite books that I have read in my life. Lawless was very well written and very fun to read.

Lawless was a story about three brothers, Forrest, Jack, and Howard, who ran moonshine in Franklin County, Virginia. While in the search for money and good paying jobs, the brothers found out about running moonshine. They set up a still and got to work. During one transaction, Forrest got jumped and the men slit his throat. Forrest trekked through 12 mile
Mar 17, 2015 Jeanette rated it liked it
This is a novel that follows the Prohibition years and just after for the Bondurant clan in Virginia. They were the great-uncles, grandfather of the author. It's gritty and intense rendering of the bootleg alcohol production and distribution and yet also of the particulars of their lives and associations.

The transitions between factions of the story and the Anderson pursuit were choppy. It lost an entire star in that aspect of continuity.

These lives were rough, their physical troubles more than
Jan 23, 2016 Brian rated it really liked it
This novel was one of the most gripping reads I have had in the last year. The reason was not because I did not know how it ends. That is hinted at almost from the beginning. It was not because I have a personal connection to Franklin County, VA or moonshining in particular. It was because Matt Bondurant has created a novel where the characters literally breathe and the reader finds themselves caught up, and invested in, the details of their lives.
I would have given this text five stars but for
Paul Pessolano
Feb 25, 2011 Paul Pessolano rated it it was ok
No, this is not about Hurricane Ike going through Texas. This is a story, based on fact, of a family growing up in Franklin County, Virginia. This county was the seat for White Mule, Firewater, Wild Cat, Stump Whiskey, Rotgut, White Lightning, Moonshine, or whatever you wanted to call it. It is claimed that 99 of 100 people in Franklin County were making, or had some connection with illegal liquor.

The Bondurant family played a major role in not only making moonshine, but also were key players in
Nov 27, 2012 J. rated it really liked it
A few months back I saw the film Lawless in the theaters and found it to be a pretty good bit of cinema. Director John Hillcoat adapted that film from a novel entitled The Wettest County in the World, and while I had wanted to read the book prior to seeing the film, I was unable to obtain a copy in an orderly fashion and so I went into the theater with nothing to stack the film up against. A few months later I found a copy of the book in a clearance section of the bookstore and I picked it up wi ...more
LeeAnn Heringer
I picked this novel up in an airport bookshop where it was being heavily promoted and it was alright. It got me through a 4 hour flight. But it wasn't anything great.

The novel tells two stories in parallel, the story of the 3 brothers told from the point of view of the youngest brother (and sometimes the oldest, particularly when he's drunk), and the story of a writer named Sherwood Anderson who came to cover a trial that involved the brothers. But it points to the weakness of the story line th
Apr 03, 2013 Doreen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: NASCAR fans and anyone interested in the real moonshine industry of the 1900's
Recommended to Doreen by: Watched the movie, 'Lawless' and realized it was based upon this book
The story of the Bondurant brothers of Virginia is told as historical fiction, written by one of the grandsons...Matt Bondurant. The writing of this secretive part of our country's illegal activities is both informative and sensational. After all, this is the region that provided oceans of moonshine during Prohibition. And according to Bondurant, the days of stills and moonshine lives on today.

Back to the book...I like the writing. It's descriptive in a very personal way. The relationships and e
Dec 07, 2012 Belinda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I am not sure where to classify this book in my stacks as it is sort of non-fiction, sort of fiction=beautifully written book that the film "Lawless (which I liked very much) was based on. I ended up choosing fiction --it's almost like In Cold Blood--a new type of fiction. Written by a descendant of the famed "Bondurant Boys" whom the book is written about. Poetic language describing the lives of the moonshiners and their families and the other people that live in this rural tobacco farming area ...more
Karly *The Vampire Ninja & Luminescent Monster*

The Wettest County in the World is the story of the three Bondurant Brothers (Howard, Forrest & Jack) who made and ran liquor in Franklin County during the Prohibition and in the years that shortly followed. The History of this story is fastenating and horrifying. Matt Bondurant writes this story with such a grit and brutality that it is almost beautiful.

The story is told in a looping, shattered fashion with chapters skipping about between the years but it is absolutely engaging. The violen
Sep 15, 2011 Hailey rated it really liked it
Ok, first and foremost, I am a gigantic nerd. I love history-especially 1920's Americana, which is pretty much this book cover to cover. It details a family of bootleggers living in Appalachia during prohibition and therefore contains all of the key components of cool: substance abuse and violence. It is also based on a true story, as the "Bondurant Boys" were the author's grandfather and great-uncles, although he admits that many of the details are poetic retellings birthed of his own imaginati ...more
Sep 05, 2015 Ruthie rated it liked it
I agree with other readers who felt that there is a great story here, but it was slowed by the author's use of a writer trying to research the tale. The time-jumping did not add to or enhance the story, and was rather annoying. I wish the author had just told the story in a more straight-forward manner.

That said, Rick Bragg told a similar tale when he wrote about his bootlegging grandfather in "Ava's Man", a more gripping tale, told by a far better writer about a much more intriguing man.

N.B. -
Aug 06, 2010 Kocart rated it it was amazing
Just about my favorite book in a long time. By writing this book as a novel, the author imagined the details of the lives of his own family during prohibition. He went to the the source of the moonshine liquor, avoiding the cliche of the old film noir films with their city gangsters. This book was a little more down home, in a sinister way. The description of the effects of hard liquor on the mind of one of the characters was among the best word pictures I can remember. The reporter who tried to ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 05, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Dark, stark novel based on the true story of the author's grandfather and his brothers and their time making moonshine in southwestern Virginia during the Depression is stirring and compelling. The "Bondurant Boys" made, ran, and sold moonshine, and in the course of business were shot, knifed, and survived despite horrific injuries that are the more staggering because they are part of the true story. Also true is the brother's resistance to joining a county-wide conspiracy of moonshiners and loc ...more
Sep 21, 2014 Trekscribbler rated it really liked it
I couldn’t tell you why exactly, but I’m a bit of a history junkie with things surrounding the Great American Experiment that’s more commonly known as Prohibition. It’s always been an era that’s fascinated me for a variety of reasons, none of which relate specifically to my background or my upbringing. I guess that maybe there’s something I find uniquely fascinating about the prospects of so many ordinary folks suddenly picking up, defying the law of the land, and essentially becoming not only l ...more
Carl R.
May 29, 2014 Carl R. rated it really liked it
The Wettest County in the World is a novel--No, a memoir. No, a true crime story. Matt Bondurant novelizes his own family's history in Franklin County, Virginia, focusing on the exploits of three moonshining brothers--Forrest, Howard, and Jack--and their involvement in what is known as "The Great Franklin County Moonshine Conspiracy." Within that conspiracy is a shootout at a bridge over Magoddee Creek that involved the moonshiners on a run and law enforcement officials who were every bit as cro ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
On the Southern L...: Matt Bondurant 3 24 Mar 02, 2013 07:26AM  
  • Mr. Capone
  • Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City
  • Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C.
  • Gangster Squad: Covert Cops, the Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles
  • Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long
  • The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro
  • Murder City: The Bloody History of Chicago in the Twenties
  • The Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century
  • Just a Corpse at Twilight
  • Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster
  • Chasing Mavericks: The Movie Novelization
  • De Profundis, The Ballad of Reading Gaol & Other Writings
  • Mr. Untouchable
  • A Brief Stop On the Road From Auschwitz
  • Sun Going Down
  • Daphne du Maurier and her Sisters: The Hidden Lives of Piffy, Bird and Bing
  • Washington Burning: How a Frenchman's Vision for Our Nation's Capital Survived Congress, the Founding Fathers, and the Invading British Army
  • The Signal

Share This Book

“The constant assertion of masculinity is always the most obvious tell of a fake. You do not constantly assert what you know you have.” 12 likes
“It amazed Forrest that so many men seemed to wake up in the morning needing some kind of beating or another, men saying and doing fantastic things for the sake of getting another man to smash his face.” 11 likes
More quotes…