The Wettest County in the World
A Novel Based on a True Story
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.
Reading Group Guide
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 th see more