Book Review: The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap by Paulette Mahurin

Book Review:
The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap
By Paulette Mahurin
The year 1895 was filled with memorable historical events: the Dreyfus Affair divided France; Booker T. Washington gave his Atlanta address; Richard Olney, United States Secretary of State, expanded the effects of the Monroe Doctrine in settling a boundary dispute between the United Kingdom and Venezuela; and Oscar Wilde was tried and convicted for gross indecency under Britain’s recently passed law that made sex between males a criminal offense. When news of Wilde’s conviction went out over telegraphs worldwide, it threw a small Nevada town into chaos. This is the story of what happened when the lives of its citizens were impacted by the news of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment. It is a chronicle of hatred and prejudice with all its unintended and devastating consequences, and how love and friendship bring strength and healing.
My Review:
I actually miss reading amazing ‘life-story with conflicts’ kind of books. I love literary, historical fiction that invites the reader into the privacy of people’s every day, seemingly ordinary lives. But these lives are rarely ordinary, definitely not boring at all! It splices open emotions that run deep in anyone when you read about lives torn apart by gossip, discrimination and bullying of the deadliest kind. I found that in this book and it was enthralling. Especially loved the Oscar Wilde quotes and the events of his own experience with prejudice and persecution, which were the central theme of the novel.
The main character Mildred Dunlap, one of the richest women in the small town of Red River Pass, Nevada, has her secrets, and she likes it that way. Never endowed with good-looks or charm, she finds herself the target of ridicule quite often in the form of the gossip ‘hens’ of town. In an attempt to protect herself and her not so conventional relationship with her cousin Edra, she willingly subjects herself to more. Discovering an unlikely friendship in the man she uses to accomplish this, Charley, she becomes the main recipient of the rumor-mill headed up by the ever so hateful Josie and her bored housewives type of circle. Tragedy blossoms in excess from the careless actions, words of prejudice and jealousy of others to a harrowing end.

I found this story pretty addicting. I wanted to see what happened when things did get out of hand in this rural, 1800’s setting town. I was afraid for Mildred and Edra, I also cheered Charley on for whatever it was he wanted. He is a kind soul and it showed. I was surprised how well he took to the events that unfolded around him. He made this story. He brought out emotional spots and brings a reader to invest in his life and the ones he loves with simple actions. I have to say, I hated, hated, hated Josie! What she does is just horrid. It’s just so tragic; it wasn’t pretty and cut so deep into the lines of segregation of many types, you want to shake her to death. Literally!

The storytelling was fascinating and I enjoyed it. Awesome read!
I received this book free for an honest review from the author via WaAr (a facebook review group).
About the Author:
Paulette Mahurin

From the time I was ten year old, I've loved to write. While in college I wrote two award winning short stories. This encouraged me to continue to write, and write I did but never completed any of my novels due to other responsibilities: education, jobs, family, etc. After attending and receiving a Master's Degree in the Nurse Practitioner Program at UCLA, I went to work in the second busiest emergency room in Los Angeles county. I saw and learned about things that haunted me, until bit by a tick and diagnosed with Lyme Disease (which went to my heart valves, brain, and muscular skeletal system) knocked me down and afforded me time to write and release the memories onto pages before me. I wrote, and wrote, and released what was stored inside, which finally gave way to a story that was to change my life, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap. When I began to feel better, I joined a writing class, in Ojai, CA, where I live. The teacher, Deb Norton (screenwrite/playwrite of The Whole Banana) had us do an exercise involving a photo. We were to write a 10 minute mystery. The photo I picked was of two women huddled close together in clothing that looked circa turn of the twentieth century. I made them a Lesbian couple trying to avoid being found out. In my research, I came across Oscar Wilde's imprisonment. Britain had recently changed it's laws to make homosexual activity, a man having sex with another man, a criminal offense resulting in a two year hard labor prison sentence. The combination of the photo from that writing class and Oscar Wilde's imprisonment were the seeds that started the story, six years in the making. For those six years, I studied Wilde, the history of Lesbians, western settlement in the United States, and I opened to what it must have been like to live in fear of being persecuted because of the nature of one's existence, that can no more be changed than the color of grass. As I wrote, I saw myself in the characters who I dialogued with, related with as if we were friends today, and in doing this I learned that external factors may change (the environment, technology, family relating, etc.) but the nature of the human condition and how we manifest remains the same. There will always be stories to tell, to write, to read, to appreciate, because we invest in literature from our humanness, our emotional composition, and we relate to the imagery created with narrative and dialogue that suit our preferences. We are drawn in, over and over and over again, to similar story lines, themes, sequels, because of this human experience--that in sitting down before a book or ebook, we are transcended out of our ordinary lives to magical places that written words create, no matter how similar or repetitive the story, because,after all, we are all living, breathing, stories.


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