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

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3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  2,559 ratings  ·  381 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)
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Bridget
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
Bill
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...more
Lou

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...more
Kevin Farrell
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...more
Benjamin
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...more
Liz Clark
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
Mary
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
Jonathan Briggs
A JON AND HIS MA BOOK CLUB SELECTION

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...more
W.H. Johnson
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...more
Nadine
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emily
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...more
Bridget
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...more
Kris Aerni
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...more
Paul Pessolano
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...more
Jacob
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
J.E. Glaze
Matt Bondurant does a fitting job in this historical novel about his own family two generations back, in the Prohibition Days and after, in Richardson County, Virginia.

I want to give this a higher rating, because he kept me engaged and interested, always having to change with the changing time-frames, which is one of his tricks in this book. Yet, there are some reasons why this is a three and not a four.

The first 1/3 - 1/2 of the book reads like a regular human interest story, well-written, but...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...more
Doreen
Apr 03, 2013 Doreen rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Ellie
I don't usually like contemporary novels but, since this is based on a real incident in history, I thought I would give it a shot. I actually found the first part of the book pretty compelling then, unfortunately, I became bored w/parts 2 & 3! I thought he began repeating himself, and began trying way too hard to be "deep" (That's my main complaint about most contemporary authors -- I get distracted from the story 'cause they all seem to want to make their novels as orotund as possible). His...more
Hailey
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
Joey
I bought this book because I thought that the movie Lawless looked pretty interesting and when I looked up some of the reviews for this book I was surprised that the majority didn't love the book. I was afraid it would be slow but I picked it up anyway and I was completely wrong. I enjoyed the story a lot and thought that Matt Bondurant was really capable of putting you in a different time and place. I also heard that the characters were underdeveloped and I disagree. Even just the prelude estab...more
Kocart
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
Trekscribbler
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 Brush
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
Kathy Hiester
The Wettest County in the World is based on the true story about three brothers who prepared and sold moonshine during the Prohibition era. The story though set in the hills of Virginia is an out and out gangster story. I wish I could say I loved the book and could recommend it without reservations but honestly the book just wasn’t for me. BUT if rural Southern gangsters have any sort of appeal to you this may just be worth checking out if not put it down and run away.
2 Stars
Lee
First, I must admit - I only read this book because I wanted to know more about the story before I saw the movie.

But I'm glad I did. The story is woven together nicely, and it's an interesting read, trying to sort through the intriguing blend of fact and fiction. The only thing I had trouble with was the skipping back and forth from one year to another. It made sense for how the story was composed, but the transitions were choppy for me.
Janelle
If I could do half stars, I would have given this book a 1.5. The only thing that held my interest was the fact that it dealt with Franklin County history.
I thought the storyline was confusing, randomly jumping between two time periods. It also included another storyline - Sherwood Anderson's time in Franklin County to write a book about moonshining - that could have been left out.
Justin
Gripping. This book is a wonderful look into the rural United States during the Prohibition Era. It picks you up out of your seat and places you in Franklin County, bumping up and down on those winding dirt roads. I couldn't help but appreciate the grit of the Bondurant brothers, and their "leave us alone" attitude. I never agreed with all of their actions, but I had sympathy all the same. There is a little of that "get what you get" mentality in all of us, and it can either crush us or drive us...more
Sherrie
As a fact-based book,it was very interesting as to the history of that era. Some parts dragged a little, and then there were some parts that were very fast-paced. The character studies were engrossing and gave great insight as to motivations, etc. I am now looking forward to watching the movie to see whether it stays true to the book.
Morris
On of the great ones... fascinating world of Virginia bootleggers centering around the Bondurant family and written by a grandson of Jack Bondurant... Matt is a storyteller and he recreates the time period with amazing detail and strong characters... a violent book, but also the story of a hard working family of farmers and merchants...
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“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.” 10 likes
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